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Kennedy Bullet Fragment Antimony Bias Range

Was Kennedy killed in a conspiracy? By definition we'll never know for certain since any truly effective conspiracy obscures its existence. You know my take on this. We'll be arguing about it in the 29th century, scrutinizing extremely faded photos and film clips, trying to remember whatever happened to the Umbrella Man. In the meantime we have the parsing of bullet fragments:

1. Bullet from stretcher

2. Largest metal fragment from Connally's arm

3. Bullet fragment from front seat cushion

4. Larger metal fragment from the President's head

5. Metal fragments from rear floorboard carpet

The antimony, ppm, of the stretcher bullet is 833 plus or minus 9. I don't know what that means exactly but I find it highly suspicious.

Though any attempt to make head or tail of this latest study is bound to be hazardous, it appears that the gist is that a previous analysis declared that all five fragments came from two bullets. The new analysis says maybe not -- maybe, possibly, there were three or more bullets. The report then makes what strikes me as a rather dramatic leap:

' "If the assassination fragments are derived from three or more separate bullets, then a second assassin is likely," the researchers said. If the five fragments came from three or more bullets, that would mean a second gunman's bullet would have had to strike the president, the researchers explained.'


Gosh. Three empty shell casings were found in Oswald's perch on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

Someone please explain to me why three bullets fired at Kennedy would be proof of a second gunman.

The comments appended to the story are predictably conspiratorial. Here's one I like, from "Lefty"

"OK, so now we've got proponents of the CIA theory, the Mafia theory, the LBJ theory, the USSR theory, the Castro theory and G*d knows what other theories. All of these posters believe that they are the only holders of the keys of truth. Not all of them can be right. So which is it?"

From the boodle:

Cassandra poses a great question: Why is it just white men representing the Republicans and talking about torture as if they were discussing "fishing"?

Gore on The Assault on Reason. (Thanks to Bad Sneakers.)

Freaks! (Thanks to Jack.)


I stand in awe of the brain and tongue of Christopher Hitchens -- of his rambunctious genius, his loquacity, the eloquence of his multi-syllabicism, and what might more generally be described as his -- you know -- way with words. But perhaps he uses a bazooka when a peashooter would be more appropriate. Conviction is a virtue, and a willingness to take a stand, but so is a generosity of spirit. Good manners. Civility. Let's now listen to him on CNN, hours after the death of Jerry Falwell:

COOPER: Author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens is about as far from Jerry Falwell in his beliefs as one could get. Christian fundamentalists are a major target of his new book, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." He joins me now from Raleigh, North Carolina. Christopher, I'm not sure if you believe in heaven, but, if you do, do you think Jerry Falwell is in it?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": No. And I think it's a pity there isn't a hell for him to go to.

COOPER: What is it about him that brings up such vitriol?

HITCHENS: The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?

People like that should be out in the street, shouting and hollering with a cardboard sign and selling pencils from a cup. The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men, that we're -- we're not told that people who believe like Falwell will be snatched up into heaven, where I'm glad to see he skipped the rapture, just found on the floor of his office, while the rest of us go to hell.

How dare they talk to children like this? How dare they raise money from credulous people on their huckster-like (INAUDIBLE) radio stations, and fly around in private jets, as he did, giggling and sniggering all the time at what he was getting away with?

Do you get an idea now of what I mean to say?

COOPER: Yes, no, I think -- I think you're making yourself very clear.


Sports dept.:

Did you see the Suns-Spurs game last night? I think I made it almost halfway through the first quarter before zonking. But the Suns lost. And they probably lost because their All-Star center, Amare Stoudemire, was suspended for doing essentially nothing wrong. Read all about it.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 17, 2007; 12:17 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Waterboarding Ashcroft
Next: The End of Retail Politics



Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 12:38 PM | Report abuse

re. Hitchens
You can read his piece in Slate.
Just make sure he doesn't write my obituary.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 17, 2007 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Reposting quotes from Gore's book:

"Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned?"

"...a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response."

As Hitchens aptly proves, then squashes.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Posner. "Case Closed." Government Conspiracies are an oxymoron. Can't keep a secret like that for 40 years. No such thing as a monolithic entity. Terrible Evil need not require a complicated cause.

Scroonched down in seat proven by recent vid.

I'm sure I've missed something, but I'm kind of busy today.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Interesting website

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Interesting website

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

RD, yup that Internet is quite the source of accurate, thoughtful information, isn't it?

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"The whole consideration of this -- of this horrible little person is offensive to very, very many of us who have some regard for truth and for morality, and who think that ethics do not require that lies be told to children by evil old men..."

I did not like Jerry Falwell, or a good deal of his propaganda. Period. However, it seems like Mr. Hitchens is saying that *Christianity* is immoral and nothing but lies, something at which I take offense. Atheists do not have a monopoly on morality. I take my ethical responsability very seriously, and I base it on what a Palestinian Jew said about 2000 years ago. I also would consider myself someone who has very high regard for the truth. For someone who claims to fight against bigotry (of which Falwell was guilty on many occasions), Mr. Hitchens appears fairly bigoted himself.

Maybe I'm reading too much into what he's saying...

Posted by: Tangent | May 17, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Hitchens' remarks are rude, boorish and mean-spirited. And pretty much exactly mirror my thoughts about Falwell. The last thing I read about Jerry that was so enjoyable ended up getting Larry Flynt sued.

(Falwell and his ilk really bring out the miserable so-and-so in me.)

Posted by: byoolin | May 17, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

We've been over some of this before. I agree with RD that the probability of a vast U.S. government conspiracy is zero. For practical purposes of conspiracy theory, there just is no monolithic gummint.

That was an interesting website. I skimmed the headlines and questions. I feel compelled to comment on two claims I really don't understand. One, why would autopsy photos & results be faked? Unless of course the hospital, doctors, coroner, etc. were all in on it. See paragraph 1. Second, if Kennedy was killed by a conservative movement because he was a potential civil rights hero, why didn't someone shoot LBJ? He actually was a civil rights hero.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Jabba the Falwell may have been able to spell "generosity of spirit" but he didn't understand the concept. I wouldn't waste any on him or any of ilk. I consider them dangerous enemies.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 1:21 PM | Report abuse

Omigod Michelle Pffiefer is on Oprah.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Tangent said: For someone who claims to fight against bigotry (of which Falwell was guilty on many occasions), Mr. Hitchens appears fairly bigoted himself.

Thank you for summing up my thoughts quite succinctly.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 1:26 PM | Report abuse

The bullet fragments are substitutes, anyway. Everyone knows that J. Edgar Hoover and the Mafia collaborated seamlessly.

After this week's headlines, can anyone really believe in a "government conspiracy?"

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 17, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I know this next news flash may rock some of your deepest-held beliefs about our government, but Torqueberto's Justice Department says it has conducted an exhaustive search for Karl Rove's lost e-mails, but couldn't find anything except on teeny-weeny chain that was previously released.

Sometimes I just ask myself, who do those idiots even bother to release those kinds of mindless things.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Tangent I agree as well, although I cannot disagree with Hitchens comments directed at Falwell. When you choose to put yourself out in the public you are subjecting yourself to critism, and when you say as many mean spirited things as he did I would hope there would be people who choose not to let those comments go uncontested.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was JEH and the Illuminati?

Posted by: byoolin | May 17, 2007 1:32 PM | Report abuse

833ppm (or .008%)of Sb in lead appears normal to me if it's pure, or "corroding", lead. Pure lead is indeed used in ball ammunition, the type that was found in Oswald's possession. Ball ammo, a.k.a. full metal jacket or FMJ, is a core of cast pure lead in a steel jacket, .
A professional killer would have likely used the more lethal expanding and non-jacketed ammo used by hunters. In that case the Sb level might have reached the 2-5% level and the composition would have likely included arsenic, copper and other stuff to harden the lead.
6.5x52 Carcano is a pretty mild cartridge, I'm a bit surprised to learn that a ball bullet fractured, but sillyer things have happened.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 17, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Q: Why do those idiots even bother to release those kinds of mindless things?

A: Vast Government Conspiracy.

Posted by: byoolin | May 17, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I thought the number 42 did it. I mean, isn't 42 the answer?

Posted by: omni | May 17, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

The university in my hometown is conferring an honorary degree on Maher Arar, the Canadian man who was extraordinarily rendered by the US to Syria and tortured after the RCMP gave passed along false information.

Posted by: byoolin | May 17, 2007 1:45 PM | Report abuse


Of course, "after the RCMP gave passed along false information" should have been "after the RCMP gave passed along transmitted repeated false information."

Or something like that.

Posted by: byoolin | May 17, 2007 1:47 PM | Report abuse

The word "antinomy" always makes me think of alchemy. Perhaps that's why I find the whole "science" of bullet composition analysis so unlikely.

Didn't Cleopatra use antinomy in her cosmetics?

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2007 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday evening, Eric Bakovic (over at Language Log) said something which summarized my feelings perfectly. Isn't it wonderful when everything you want to say is already said?

He quotes Falwell's infamous statement on **The 700 Club** from 13 September 2001:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way--all of them who have tried to secularize America--I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

Bakovic noticed that immediately after playing this clip, both PBS and NPR stated that Falwell apologized. Hunting through the record, Bakovic gathers evidence that the supposed "apology" was of the papal genre, "I'm sorry you were offended" rather than "I'm sorry for what I said." The key part for me, however, is this bit:

"Respect for the recently deceased be damned. Falwell said the words above just two days after the terrible attacks that killed thousands of innocent people and shocked people from all walks of life across the nation and the world. Where was Falwell's respect?"

Posted by: Blake Stacey | May 17, 2007 1:53 PM | Report abuse

"Didn't Cleopatra use antinomy in her cosmetics?" Some antioxidants?

Posted by: daiwanlan | May 17, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone didn't click on it, the website I linked to is actually a very scholarly site debunking the conspiracy theorists.

Which clearly means the author is part of the conspiracy.

Now I have a 2:00 meeting with my alien masters that I am late for.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Very interesting website on the assasination. I never wanted to believe the Warren Commissions report because it is very painful to realize that some disturbed little man could have had such dumb luck with his aim. But I don't believe any of the conspiracy theories either. The only evil genius who could have pulled that off is Karl Rove and he was only 13 at the time.

I agree with Byoolin about Hitchens' remarks on Falwell. I snickered the whole time I was reading them and then felt guilty for a half a second. But I don't like Hitchens either. I think he's a pompous a$$.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | May 17, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"42" is the answer--but "the number 42" did not do it. People who forgot about the 247 card-carrying communists in the State Department often make this same mistake.

More recently--like, in the current century--people have pointed to "9/11" as the answer. Others insist that it is the rationale, something entirely different from the answer.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 17, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"42" is the answer--but "the number 42" did not do it. People who forgot about the 247 card-carrying communists in the State Department often make this same mistake.

More recently--like, in the current century--people have pointed to "9/11" as the answer. Others insist that it is the rationale, something entirely different from the answer.

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | May 17, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

re.: Mr. Hitchens

As I said the other day, Mr. Falwell would be revered by some and reviled by others. Mr. Hitchens' commentary is just as over the top as some of Mr. Falwell's remarks. One tends to lose credibility with more sensibly minded folks when speaking so vehemently of others. Mr. Hitchens needs to take a powder.

Posted by: jack | May 17, 2007 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Antimony, like alimony, Ivansmom. Sb is simpler, from the latin stibium. I had a cat (black, of course) name Stibnite, the most common ore of Sb. I have a cat called Chrysotile now. I'm such a dork.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 17, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, I think you may be confusing Cleo's cosmetics with her boy toy, Mark Antinomy. (After which I believe she famously may have clasped an asp to her bosom. Why, I have no idea. People do the kinkiest things. If I had a bosom, I doubt I'd get my jollies clasping an asp to it [them? I can never remember if bosom is singular or collective singular]. But I try not to be judgemental about such things.)

>The only evil genius who could have pulled that off is Karl Rove and he was only 13 at the time.

Made me snort, Bad. But I'm not sure if you were suggesting his age disqualified him as a suspect, or merely pointed out his early precociousness.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Hitchens sounds like he's scared while Dawkins seems exasperated. Just my impression.
I've received e-mails from people I haven't heard from in a long while. Every one is glad Falwells dead, they just disagree on how many there are left to go.
As for respect for his family, he's installed one of his spawn in charge of his coven and another runs his misinformation factory. Add nepotism to the evil toad's crimes.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

>However, it seems like Mr. Hitchens is saying that *Christianity* is immoral and nothing but lies,

Tangent, I'm not sure where that came from because I don't see it anywhere in his remarks. I don't see how what Falwell spouted really had much to do with actual religion or Christianity as I understand it.

So I hate to be a contrarian (well, not really) but while I've never been a big fan of Hitchens I think he's pretty much right on target with Mr. Falwell.

Good riddance.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Calling cats after ores makes a strange kind of sense, Shrieking.

Jack, thanks for the link to the article on synthol and bodybuilding. I must admit, I didn't finish page 1 before I thought immediately, "Why didn't Popeye give Olive Oyl some synthol for her chest?"

And isn't Synthol a ferengi drink, too?

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Did I write evil toad? I meant god-fearing, moral paragon, of course.
Mercy me.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

The tent called Christianity is huge, as is the tent labeled atheist. So, we see here the inhumanity possible within these two communities. Neither Falwell nor Hitchens spoke or speaks for the entire community that each person claimed(s).

Fallwell never spoke for me. In fact, Fallwell came from a tradition that once told me that my Catholic community was, well, not really Christian. I know what it feels like to hear such talk. Awful. Hitchens speaks from the same playbook. Equally awful.

I like what Tangent reminds us: Jesus was never a Christian. He was a Jew, living in an occupied territory. Furthermore, he was born in poverty, fled with his family to stay alive, worked with his hands, was nothing but authentically pastoral. He was unjustly accused, tortured, and sentenced to a cruel and painful death.

For what? He had the audacity to question authority and focus instead on love.

I am reading letters between Arthur Clarke and C.S. Lewis. The quality and tone of the lively debate enriches me. Better to spend time reading them, then dwelling on Falwell and Hitchens

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

The link 'Sneaks provided to the excerpt from Gore's book is worth reading. The words free exchange of ideas and opinions are used often. Like here.

Posted by: jack | May 17, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, RD. I only read the top portion of that web site and didn't get down to the de-bunking part.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 2:46 PM | Report abuse

I read the Gore thing. I think he's running for president. The big wet kiss to the net roots ...

Posted by: Achenbach | May 17, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Torquberto may be in trouble. The Democratic leadership in the Senate i sorganizing for a vote of no confidence in the AG.

Posted by: jack | May 17, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Um didn't Popeye have skinny biceps. It was his upper wrists that were massive, from all that rope tying.

Posted by: omni | May 17, 2007 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Where's the 'Don't Believe in Wodin Beer Tent?' Good partys over there and it is huge.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Here's a link:

Posted by: omni | May 17, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I'm basing my assertion on his tone during the interview (having watched the video of it), and the title of his book, something about "How Religion Poisons Everything." To me, that sounds like he's attacking Christianity in general (at which I take offense) and Falwell specifically (at which I take considerably LESS offense).

Posted by: Tangent | May 17, 2007 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I believe, Boko, that the Wodin-Disbelief/Beer Belief Tent is yonder, behind the AchenblogLand Tent. Use Google, by starting with your home address; Enter "Valhalla Deconstructed" as your destination. I believe that an assisted living community in Bergen, Nordsk will be named that shortly.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Hitchins is attacking false Christians. We talk about that a lot here. Too many people claim to be Christians but don't follow nearly any of the basic tenets of Christianity. (And you know who I'm talking about.)

He is correct when he says by putting the word "Reverend" before a name, folks get away with saying awful stuff.

And that's often true because too many people, Tangent for example, are quick to say that anyone disagreeing with the Reverend is attacking Christianity.

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

As far as I'm concerned, Jerry Falwell's biggest sin was working to break down the separation of church and state. Those of us who have read the histories of the 16th and 17th centuries understand the wisdom behind the founders' intent in creating that wall. That he was bigoted merely shows the smallness and shallowness of the man. The cracks in the church/state separation have dire consequences for us all.

Posted by: Slyness | May 17, 2007 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Tangent, Hitchens isn't singling out Christianity; he's down with the whole religion thing.

Falwell is, to him, the very worst manifestation of what he perceives as wrong with religion.

Me thinks he doeth complain too much and too boorishly.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 3:33 PM | Report abuse

>To me, that sounds like he's attacking Christianity in general

Well, I think he's attacking all religion, if anything, and I happen to agree that a lot of components of what people do with their beliefs hardly help them. For instance, all the people stuck in Katrina that just stood there saying "God will provide". Yeah, he sent you a boat, get the hell out of the flood.

Then we get into the fact that even people who supposedly believe in the same God seem quite willing to hate others who put a comma in a different place in the texts.

On an individual level religion can be a wonderful comfort and a prescription for doing good, but for some the idea of doing good and defending your faith is strapping on a bomb belt and going into a cafe.

I'd say that's fairly poisonous.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

That Gore excerpt is interesting. As is his custom, I fear he may be overstating his case a bit to make a point, but that's quibbling with strategy. His underlying argument that the nation is less and less inclined to take the effort to really think hard issues through is well taken - and not limited to the right.

Part of this phenomenon, I assert, is information overload. When assaulted with too much conflicting data some people simply shut down and fall back on ideology. But I also suspect that many people simply do not know how to think. Basic logic seems beyond much of the populace. Not only is logic not taught much anymore, but the very word seems to have become vaguely threatening.

It's as if clear thinking has become equated with a lack of emotional sensitivity and kindness. The message seems to be mean people think, but nice people feel. A message that, again, is not limited to one political philosophy.

Perhaps the salvation is in the example set by good rational thinkers. Maybe we all need to prove to the world that logical thinking is a virtue. For instance, I support Al Gore for a solid and exceptionally logical reason.

I think Tipper's kinda hot.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 3:40 PM | Report abuse

Que es mas macho - think or feel? I've spent almost the whole last ten years teaching the Boy to think, by example and exhaustive conversation. My goal is to have him outthink me. Part of this is convincing him that nice people can both think and feel. Also, that a mean thinker may be a worse enemy than someone who is mean without thinking. Que es mas malo -- Arbusto or Cheney?

I took Tangent to mean that, in addition to attacking the Rev., she believed Hitchins was attacking Christianity; that is, I didn't get any sense that Tangent was defending the Rev.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Omni, synthol, which is an oil, works wherever you inject it. If it's in the triceps branchii and the other extensors etc. then the puff hits there, and you would indeed get a Popeyeish physique.

Of course, this begs why Popeye never got Olive Oyl to try it on her chest.

And next we know, we'll be finding that Chinese pork and beef have synthol injections all along to make them look more meaty, too.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course logic is not longer taught to kids. They've got to pass extremely picky multiple-choice tests to progress in school.

Asking a kid how many pounds of tea was dumped in the Boston Harbor is pretty stupid. That was an actual question on the Virginia SOL test.

And teaching her those kind of facts in order for her to pass such a test is doing her an amazing disservice.

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Yes.. I agree with Ivansmom. We've got to teach our kids to think. We definitely do that in our house. Maybe too much, judging from the questions and arguments we get now that the kids are older. But it's all good, don't worry.

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

That was a real question, TBG? Jeez, I have no idea how much tea we dumped -- and I was doing a lot of the dumping. Believe me, humping those &^%$# chests of tea up onto the deck from the hold was hard work, and the sweat made my war paint run. I kept telling everybody, why the hell don't they pack this stuff into little tiny paper sacks or something, maybe with a little teeny-tiny rope lanyard attached to them, so you can dunk 'em easier. But did anybody listen to me? Nooooooooooooooooo.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Poor Mudge. Must be tough, to have spent 6 centuries with people who didn't pay attention to useful and commonsensical advice!

Posted by: Slyness | May 17, 2007 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Hitchens, like Dawkins try to debunk all religion and magical thinking. Good luck to them. I think their vehemence is a reaction to the depredations of some religious people on science, the secular sphere, common sense and common decency.
Ratzinger (the future patron saint of child molesters) has just condemned what he calls hedonistic secularism. I find that offensive. The secular sphere is the only place that clever people like Hitchens, Dawkins and me can communicate with the religious idiots who disagree with us. In mutual love and respect(do I really need one of those dopey happy faces?:-))

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure schools *ever* taught logic or critical thinking. What I remember of school was being force-fed a random assortment of concepts and factoids. That and English "electives," such as Advertising. I wasn't even taught aboout topic sentences and the like until college.

What I think is happening with logic and thinking overall is the rejection of "judging" anything. A logical thought process is quite likely to result in a *judgement* about something. So why think when the end result is something that is more and more looked down upon?

Posted by: Raysmom | May 17, 2007 4:12 PM | Report abuse

And if them have their ilk.
What's us got?

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Rather than judgement Raysmom, I prefer to think of it as my rational decision, having weighed the information I came to a conclusion. Now where I to think my conclusion is the only possible conclusion then then it might be a judgement.

I am always open to the idea that I am wrong however, (I may not easily admit it though) :-)

Boko I do not have any problem with Athiest as long as they do not try to tell me I am stupid for believing what I do, I respect their beliefs and expect them to respect mine.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Billy Collins's The Lanyard:

The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the "L" section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that's what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand
again and again until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
"Here are thousands of meals" she said,
"and here is clothing and a good education."
"And here is your lanyard," I replied,
"which I made with a little help from a counselor."
"Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world." she whispered.
"And here," I said, "is the lanyard I made at camp."
"And here," I wish to say to her now,
"is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even."

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

>I'm not sure schools *ever* taught logic or critical thinking.

I had a great history teacher who went out of his way to teach us critical reading skills. Bless that man.

dmd, be honest - what you think of people who believe in Thor's Magic Hammer?

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

dmd | I respect you and I will respect any opinion you can back up with evidence. I am not required to respect your beliefs.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, Troll999.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and I would ask you not to blithely offend all the Catholics on this blog with your slander of the Pope.

As you may not realize, being indifferent to christianity, there is a tradition among many protestants that the Antichrist will be a pope, thus, slanders of the Pope are routine reading.
Secondly, there are a strong group of hardline conservative catholics who think the reforms enacted at the Second Vatican council (such as doing the mass in language people understand rather than in Latin), etc. have robbed the heart of the Catholic church. They will always be critical of the current Catholic administration until we go back to the old ways, and probably not even then.

I'm personally sick of hearing prejudiced claptrap about Catholicism and I don't want to see it here. Period. You can talk about your beliefs without doing ad hominem arguments.

And hedonistic secularism is materialism and pursuing the pleasures of the flesh, let morality hang, and he is correct to condemn it. Next time you jump to conclusions, at least read what "hedonistic" actually means.

If I was a true hedonistic secularist, I would be a con man and sociopath operating on my whims, not by any moral compass-- like de Sade.

That is very different from secular humanism, for instance, which advocates an ethical way of life and working for the betterment of our own lives and humamity.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Error you have asked me this before, why do I care? I would only begin to care if the other belief wanted to physically harm me, my family or country. I may protest aspects with I see harming others (for example I watched an honour killing on CNN today), very loosely tied to their religion. I would not ask them to change their religion but end the practise of honour killings and more importantly respect women.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Boko didn't mean you had to respect my beliefs, just my right to hold them, by why the hostility.

I guess I often find athiests very close to evangelical christians always trying to convert people, that makes me uncomfortable. I would be interested in hearing the philosophy but with the understanding that it is for my information and I may or may not change my beliefs.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, bill everything, for that poem.

I had several grade school teachers who not only taught the basics of writing, but the basics of thinking. There was nothing like a formal "logic" course, but comparison, distinguishing, etc. I agree with Raysmom that, to some people, this becomes uncomfortably close to "judging". I don't have a problem with judging ("honey, this is bad art, can you see why?") although I am open to the possibility of error. As opposed to Error, of course, who is more than possible.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2007 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Time to jump right in here and turn the topic into something completely different. The other day, somebody (CP? Yoki?) mentioned that their favorite poet is Whitman. Well, two Sunday's ago, Prairie Home Companion did its annual poetry show, which you can listen to online at

On it, Allan Ginsberg, Keillor and Robert Bly read Whitman's Song of Myself. And my favorite poet, Billy Collins, reads seven of his poems, the first one being "The Revenant," a first-person (or perhaps, first-canine) confession of a dog to his master who has just had him "put to sleep"; the opening stanza is:

I am the dog you put to sleep
As you like to call the needle of oblivion
Come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you.

It's very funny (Wilbrodog would especially enjoy it, methinks). Then Meryl Streep and GK read a bunch of poems by Updike, Henry Taylor, Langston Hughes and others, and Rita Dove reads three of hers. And Randy Newman sings a couple of funny songs. And of course a segment from "Lives of the Cowboys" as well as the Lake Woebegon monolog. I mean, what's not to like? A terrific show.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

>I would not ask them to change their religion but end the practise of honour killings and more importantly respect women.

But that IS asking them to change their religion if that's what their religion is. YOU don't get to decide that.

As far as Thir's Hammer goes let's face it, you'd think they were stupid to worship a hammer. You wouldn't spit on them in public because you're a nice person, but over the dinner table you'll tell a story about this loony you met and their stupid belief.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 4:44 PM | Report abuse

I firmly believe in Maxwell's Silver Hammer.

But I guess that's, like, totally different.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 4:46 PM | Report abuse

"I guess I often find athiests very close to evangelical christians always trying to convert people..."

Which is why I always self describe as a Heathen dmd. True Heathens never try to proselytize, but we might invite you over for beer and brats when you should be at church. We're just fun that way.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 17, 2007 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, full text here:

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Error, with the honour killings and respecting women, it is no different then when religions claimed justification for slavery based on the bible. They used ancient writings that no longer apply in modern times, and may never have applied at all unless you put a a strong emphasis on a tiny portion of the writings.

Life is about change, growth and adaptation. Somethings are just wrong, killing is one, in the country it happened the honour killing is illegal yet continues, it is as much cultural as religious and as a women I feel I have every right to say it is wrong.

I loved studying the mythology of the Norse and Native indians, I did not laugh but thought it beautiful.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

It was funny; seeing the word "lanyard" in 'Mudge's tale of the Tea Party hit me square between the eyes. See also Weingarten's Wednesday chat update for a link to a prior BtB regarding Collins.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for that link, Curmudgeon. I miss the poetry show. We in Oklahoma no longer hear Prairie Home Companion. Our station dropped it, with the listeners' complete understanding, after Keillor dissed us for no reason. A few years ago he came to do an outdoor show and hundreds of folks sat in the pouring rain (myself and the Boy among them), laughing and enjoying the performers who were on a covered stage. The rain didn't let up the whole time. Apparently the noise of the rain covered our laughter, etc., because Keillor went off in a later show on what a rotten audience we were and how you just couldn't do political humor in red-state OK. This was not true, the crowd loved it, he just couldn't hear or see us (did I mention it was raining and we were sitting under umbrellas and tarps?). His snit cost him a syndication market and a bunch of listeners.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 17, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, I find it interesting that you begin a complaint about ad hominem attacks with one. Do you think I just woke up one morning and thought Ratzy was vile. I've been following his career in horrified facsination. When Ratzinger coughs up the pedophiles and their enablers I'll withdraw my characteriztion. I attacked Ratzinger, not you.
You don't seem to mind people dissing Bush and at least he never sent a letter to the world's Bishops reminding them that anyone taking evidence of child rape to the polce could be excommunicated.
The evidence is their for anyone to see. I'll provide the links to anyone boko999@hotmail. Don't believe me judge for yourself.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Jeez, this is spooky. I wrote my post about PHC and Billy Collins without know bill was going to post "The Lanyard." Collins reads that very poem on the program.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

>I loved studying the mythology of the Norse

Me too, but that's quite a bit different than meeting a guy wearing a horned helmet who lives his life based on what side of the hammer has appeared in the clouds today.

You wouldn't think that's stupid? How about voodoo? Skip the political correctness for a minute and be honest - you'd think it's stupid.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

>If I was a true hedonistic secularist, I would be a con man and sociopath operating on my whims, not by any moral compass-- like de Sade.

Wilbrod, little over the top today eh?

"Hedonism: Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses"

Look it up yourself. Nothing there that implies being a con man and sociopath. You're doing the same thing that Islamists do when they think they have to "defend the Prophet". He's just a guy.

Anyone who has extramarital sex and doesn't wear a cross counts as a hedonistic secularist to a man who hasn't had any in 70 years.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Never did I say "that anyone disagreeing with the Reverend is attacking Christianity." I vehemently disagree with Falwell on virtually everything that he spouted about: the Rapture, mixing an established Church w/ the state, etc. etc. I think that his words spoken after 9/11 were deplorable, and dare I say, evil. That clear enough for you?

If I am guilty of going off on a, well, tangent, or reading too much into Hitchens, please forgive me.

Posted by: Tangent | May 17, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

"I respect their beliefs and expect them to respect mine."

I think this is where Dawkins, Hitchens and myself might have a problem. There are beliefs that are so ridiculous, dangerous, murderous, etc., that they are not worthy of respect. Does GWB believe in the rapture? If so, he should be impeached as that belief disqualifies him from a position where he is steward of the country, its people and resources. For that one belief alone.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 17, 2007 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Not sure, but I suspect when the pope condemns hedonistic secularism, he's referring to secular humanism, with a rhetorical embellishment.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 17, 2007 5:24 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I won't tell you where the Greek/Italian restaurant is. I will take you there. It's about a ten minute walk from the house where I grew up, so I've known it my whole life...the food is good and cheap. I wanted to go today because they have fried squash on the menu (Mondays and Thursdays only).

My brother ate well and looks better than he has, because the Hospice folks are watching over him closely. His mental state so saddens me; there are many memories I'd love to hear and won't now. I see the need to stay close and help as much as I can, to give my niece a break. Dealing with a parent in this state is difficult; fortunately, he's always been a sweet person and isn't combative. I will try to get him out as often as I can so she can do whatever she wants/needs to.

Posted by: Slyness | May 17, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Post headline up now: "Confidence Ebbs on Gonzalez."

Oh, really? When did that start? Gracious sakes alive.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 5:34 PM | Report abuse

dmd | I don't want to convert anyone . How could I? I just want people to examine their beliefs critically. I didn't think it was a secret I was hostile to any sort of magical thinking. Homeopathy, astrology, Ramtha, New Ageism. And the biggest and perhaps most dangerous nonsense, the post modern denial that there even such a thing as objective evidence.
My soapbox on this subject is now closed.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Error, so long as the hammer doesn't tell someone in the morning that a particular, race, gender or sexual orientation are inferior I am OK with it.

Yes I laugh at certain religious belief, many in the church I grew up in but they tend to be aspects not the belief itself. I would take Thor over L. Ron Hubbard any day, of course that starts another conversation on what constitutes religion, another day perhaps.

LTL, I would not endorse anything that harms others on ground that it is religious belief.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Tangent... no harm meant. I was using you as an example and I knew at the time it might sound, well, kind of shltty, but I was in a hurry and didn't have time to find a way around that. I shouldn't have done it and I'm very sorry I did.

I usually end up just deleting the post completely and going on with my business elsewhere but for some reason I didn't this time and I feel bad.

I don't think you agree with what Falwell said. I'm sure you are not one of the false Christians I was talking about. You always have careful, thoughtful posts and I hope I didn't give the idea that I thought otherwise.

On a side tangent (ha!) I was glad to see that today's paper edition had a huge picture on the cover of the funeral of Marine Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec, who was killed in Iraq. I think we need to honor these people on the front page every day.

The front page:

The article:

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Hey, tangent. How's cosine doing? You and she still an "item"?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 6:46 PM | Report abuse

>Error, so long as the hammer doesn't tell someone in the morning that a particular, race, gender or sexual orientation are inferior I am OK with it.

Isn't that what all religion does? It tells everyone else that if they don't believe the same thing they're not good enough to get into paradise.

That would make them inferior, and not on the basis of any race, gender or sexual orientation, merely on the basis of rejecting an unprovable assertion.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 6:59 PM | Report abuse

To denigrate someone for holding an irrational position is folly. We all accept irrational precepts. Notions such as the equality of the sexes, that the induction of needless pain is bad, and that only things that we can understand are worthy of respect are all irrational. None can be proven in a scientific sense. All must either be accepted as "self evident" or reduced down to simpler precepts that are.

The conflict is between which irrational notions deserve the most respect. And this is a worthwhile and important debate.

But please, let none of us delude ourselves into believing that we are rational and everyone else is not.

The only truly rational beings are psychotics.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Ahem, ER, Jesus' message is that the Kingdom of God is open to all; all one has to do is to accept it. Extremely easy, yet the most difficult act most of us could ever do.

Posted by: Slyness | May 17, 2007 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Wolfowitz to leave World Bank

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Wow. From scarey to incomprehensible in 60 seconds.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 7:12 PM | Report abuse

Boko, I have read Ratzinger's work and I respect his theology considerably, even when I disagree with it. How can you really find a counterexample to this:

"As a first step, we can respond to this question with another: what is this 'reality'? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems 'reality'? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of 'reality' and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction."

Human nature can't be changed by wishful thinking-- communism assumed everybody'd work for the common good, and religion was the opiate of the people anyway. It didn't work out that way.
And I think atheists who attempt to convince people and societies to abandon religion by use of reason are not going to succeed, probably because they do not actually understand religion to start with.

Consider this fact: this a man who lived through World War II-- in a country on the wrong side. He saw the rise of communism and its fall in the Soviet Union, the Berlin wall built and torn down. He has written a lot on theology and in fact supports ecumenism and states that it is not necessary to believe in Jesus to be saved (which I agree with. It's an accurate reading of a particular passage in the Bible.)

With such a background and a history of THINKING about it... don't you think just maybe he understands the full impact of anti-religious, secular sentiment in a culture a bit more than you do, and how political dogma can be far more divisive than religious dogma?

I found the quote Boko cited. He is in Brazil right now and was addressing people there in a country that has rampant drug culture and extreme inequality of rich and poor and absolutely no concern for the poor from the rich-- indeed a real mainfestation of hedonistic secularism. Here is the article.

Interestingly, he says also:

"Respect for a healthy secularity--including the pluralism of political opinions--is essential in the authentic Christian tradition. If the Church were to start transforming herself into a directly political subject, she would do less, not more, for the poor and for justice, because she would lose her independence and her moral authority, identifying herself with a single political path and with debatable partisan positions."

He is very clear, and in this he is also arguing against liberation theology; many priests were giving overt political help to Marxist guerillas in Latin American countries-- out of sincere desire to help the poor, but playing a dangerous game, a game that has gotten quite a number of priests and nuns killed for political reasons.

Also, to me, it means that American bishops shouldn't be meddling in politics like they did in the 2004 presidental election.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm still upset that Bokononists don't have a tombstone image. I'm thinking a picture of a lace string figure.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2007 7:14 PM | Report abuse

Paulson, Sec. of the Treasury is on the News Hour. Darned if he doesn't look like a central casting version of Daddy Warbucks.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 17, 2007 7:19 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod. I want to give your your post the thought it deserves so I won't comment now. I should have been more considerate of some boodlers feelings. I'll restrain my troll like impulses and make nice.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Lordy! By EF's definition I'm a secular hedonist. Ans all along I thought I was just a yankee

Posted by: jack | May 17, 2007 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Hey all...

Heading off early tomorrow morning to NH and won't be back 'til late Monday.

Boodling is highly unlikely.

Somehow I'll survive.

Have a great weekend, my friends!


Posted by: Scottynuke | May 17, 2007 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Have a great trip Scottynuke! I've never been to New Hampshire.

Heck, I've never even been to Old Hamsphire.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 17, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

To EF: Push aside the extreme fundamentalists of all faiths. These prescriptive formulae are NOT at all the heart of faith.

The heart of faith concerns love. Love. Love for the self, the community, the world. A practical extension of love for self, community, and world requires that we consider right living. This means codes, laws, norms, rules will arise. This is human, the growth of a bureau and authority.

Let me speak for a moment as a Christian with rather cosmic stripes: I am loved by the awesome and personal force in the Universe. I believe this. I live this. Do I know it? Not as Aristotle, Bacon, Decartes, Einstein and Sagan might know things. But, I believe. That is the essence of faith.

But these scientists also respond to the awe that is creation. This thrills me, this common experience of Nature. They know the world -- pieces of it -- and want to know more. I feel this surge toward rational apprehension of reality too. Yes! Common ground.

Back to religion, which is a cultural and human response to the experience of the sacred: What is my responsibility? To love others. To work for justice. To elevate human dignity. To bow down before the awesomeness of creation and force. I bow to honor the mystery and majesty. I am not yoked. I am not broken. I am not commanded.

I am loved.

At the kernal of all authentic religious experience is something of
and something of

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Beautiful, CP.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 8:00 PM | Report abuse

As a codicil to what Wilbrod says, the mixing of religion and politics is a crucible of fire and an unstable one at that.

Fr. Ignacia Ellacuria, one of the Jesuits slaughtered with friends and companions, taught a seminar I took my last year in college. He was the graduation speaker for my commencement. Before the year closed, he was executed by Salvadoran Army thugs (with US backing). He was a noted thinker of moderate but active liberation theology. Our course concerned the role of education in transforming Latin American.

Here is what Wikepedia notes about Ellacuria and his companions, including Fr. Jon Sobrino who is still living:

BEGIN WIKI QUOTE: Ellacuria thought that it is possible for reason and faith to merge in confronting the reality of the poor. Reason must open its eyes to their suffering; while faith sees in the weak of this world what salvation must mean and the conversion to which we are called.

Such a university must take into account the preferential option for the poor. This does not mean that only the poor will study at the university; it does not mean that the university should abdicate its mission of academic excellence--excellence which is needed in order to solve complex social issues of our time. What it does mean is that the university should be present intellectually where it is needed: to provide science for those without science; to provide skills for those without skills; to be a voice for those without voices; to give intellectual support for those who do not possess the academic qualifications to make their rights legitimate. END WIKI QUOTE

Sorry for boodle-hogging, but I think readers here might appreciate another facet of faith in action.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Awesome, Wilbrod and CP.

Posted by: Slyness | May 17, 2007 8:16 PM | Report abuse

Scotty have a terrific weekend.

RD, I have never once deluded myself into believing I was rational, I settle for an attempt at rationality.

EF, I worry less with the details and look more at the fundamentals of religion and at the core from what I have seen the belief are similar, as CP said, love, honour, respect - it is humankind who has distorted that in our various ways.

Nor can I tell you I one hundred percent believe in God, but I do respect others faith, not the faith of Falwell et al, but of the ordinary person.

On a much better topic, saw the line up for our Music Festival today, 4 day event full of free concerts, one of my favorite fun bands from my teenage years is playing (Teenage Head), as well as a mixture of others I would like to see Jazz, Rock and Celtic. Should be lots of fun.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 8:18 PM | Report abuse

dmd, I hear you. I'm commenting more on the general taboo against applying rational thought and analysis to anything that's considered "religious".

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 17, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Whoopsie, I slew the boodle, slinging theology about. I am sorry. 'Mudge, I am going through the vat of industrial ACME detergent as I wipe up the mess. Sorry. You'll have to order more, or rather, order Scotty to order more, since you are the "delegator." I like that better than "delegater."

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Wolfowitz is out!!! Hurrah! His last day at the World Bank is June 30, and I could not be happier (well, I guess I'll wait to see who Bush nominates to replace him before I celebrate too much).

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2007 8:26 PM | Report abuse

My favorite Don Williams song:

Well, I don't believe that heaven waits,
For only those who congregate.
I like to think of God as love:
He's down below, He's up above.
He's watching people everywhere.
He knows who does and doesn't care.
And I'm an ordinary man,
Sometimes I wonder who I am.

But I believe in love.
I believe in music.
I believe in magic.
And I believe in you.

Read the whole thing here:

Posted by: frostbitten | May 17, 2007 8:28 PM | Report abuse

Dagnabit, you step away from the computer for just a few hours, then rush back to break the news, only to find you've been scooped999. Resume your regular programming.

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2007 8:33 PM | Report abuse

It seems there is more love expressed for the unconcieved in Africa than for the living. How many dead through the deliberate misinformation campaign waged againsst condoms by the church? These theological niceities have an affect in the real world. Which IMO does not need a god to exist. Certainly not the god portrayed in the OT, which wriggle as you might has only been slightly improved upon since.
I know my mother loved me even as she was dealing with trollishness. Hell, that was part of the evidence of her love. I know my sister and her kids love me through their words and actions. I wouldn't demean their love by claiming the universe loves me.
The only priest I was on a first name basis with had been exiled to northern Ontario after having been chucked out of Haiti by that freedom loving anticommunist Baby Doc Duvalier. The only bad thing I ever heard him say about another person was that the last head of the church was misguided. I almost plotzed. He was sympathetic to liberaton theology but no Marxist. He was no fan of the Viet Nam war either and I suspect if he had been an American he would have been a war resister, sorry draft dodger.

I think this is rude zinger free.

I am aware of the animosty among some prots to catholics. I think I mentioned my roots are Scots Irish.
That's why I'll share this ribtickler with you.
A French Canadian Catholic started a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Quebec to keep out the Haitians.
Joke and punchline all rolled into one.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Bull Durham (1988)

[Opening narration]
Annie Savoy: I believe in the Church of Baseball. I've tried all the major religions, and most of the minor ones. I've worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms, and Isadora Duncan. I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology. You see, there's no guilt in baseball, and it's never boring... which makes it like sex. There's never been a ballplayer slept with me who didn't have the best year of his career. Making love is like hitting a baseball: you just gotta relax and concentrate. Besides, I'd never sleep with a player hitting under .250... not unless he had a lot of RBIs and was a great glove man up the middle. You see, there's a certain amount of life wisdom I give these boys. I can expand their minds. Sometimes when I've got a ballplayer alone, I'll just read Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman to him, and the guys are so sweet, they always stay and listen. 'Course, a guy'll listen to anything if he thinks it's foreplay. I make them feel confident, and they make me feel safe, and pretty. 'Course, what I give them lasts a lifetime; what they give me lasts 142 games. Sometimes it seems like a bad trade. But bad trades are part of baseball - now who can forget Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, for God's sake? It's a long season and you gotta trust. I've tried 'em all, I really have, and the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of Baseball


Posted by: tonk | May 17, 2007 8:36 PM | Report abuse

Dang. Killed the Boodle.

Posted by: tonk | May 17, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, In your first post you assumed a profound ignorance on my part and in your second post an you inferred that while the current head of the catholic had THOUGHT about his positions, I had not. Let me assure you neither is true. Evidence supplied upon request.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 8:59 PM | Report abuse

I got it, thanks: everyone is nice and open-minded and just all about the love. That's great, and just how I like it.

But that is not exactly what is espoused by leaders of the world's religions, including most of your own. They have much more restrictive policies and if you don't toe the line you're not coming to *our* heaven.

Please, that really is the whole point of having all those rules, isn't it?

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Oboy, Professor Steven Tanhauer(sp?) is on CBC Radio1 explaining the connections between Jung's archtypes and astrology. If I believed in an afterlife I might cut my throat.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 9:19 PM | Report abuse

Tonk love the Bull Durham quote.

Boko re Africa - I concur it is a disgrace.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Hi ER -- will be brief, here. (Am not a theologian but did study this in college :)

Roman Catholics DO NOT have a litmus test on heaven. Really. This is a big dividing line between Catholics and many Protestant denominations. RCs believe that lots of folks are in heaven who are not Christian. Really. Check it out. I'll try to find a cite for you, but for now you will have to trust my patent leather shoes/plaid skirt of k-12, Jesuit-trained credentials, and warm seat in the pew these many past years.

You may be thinking of the medieval practice of simony....that was long ago and far away.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Hi ER -- will be brief, here. (Am not a theologian but did study this in college :)

Roman Catholics DO NOT have a litmus test on heaven. Really. This is a big dividing line between Catholics and many Protestant denominations. RCs believe that lots of folks are in heaven who are not Christian. Really. Check it out. I'll try to find a cite for you, but for now you will have to trust my patent leather shoes/plaid skirt of k-12, Jesuit-trained credentials, and warm seat in the pew these many past years.

The rules! Lots of 'em, but recall that we grew out of the Judaic tradition and they are law-givers too. The rules govern life on earth, and tend to emphasize dignity and respect for self and others. The rules are not standardized test/permanent record for entrance to heaven.

You may be thinking of the medieval practice of simony....that was long ago and far away.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 9:27 PM | Report abuse

Whew. that was weird. I promise I did not hit submit twice.

Enjoy your evening, all. Will walk in the dark garden to look at the white buds on a huge and unnamed rose, and gather in that last elixer of the peonies.

God bless. Really. If you prefer, run it through the Whatsit-Widget machine and call it good thoughts.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 17, 2007 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I love that CP felt so strongly about her post she reiterated it.

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2007 9:30 PM | Report abuse

CP, I bailed out of Catholic school after fifth grade so if you say so, well fine. But I find it hard to believe there's going to be anyone there who doesn't believe in the resurrection and virgin birth. Jews? No rules, everyone in the pool?

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Oooh. Its the Energies. Now I get it.
SCC Its Richard Tarnas, author of Cosmos and Psyche.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Boko, so have I thought about my position on various matters.

I'm with you with disliking the church postion on contraception and AIDS in Africa. But take a look at this:

Even before this I had this question, has the Catholic church done worse harm than the U.S. government who refuses to fund anything related to contraception and family planning through the UN, practically closing or defunding a lot of essential free clinics for women?

At least the Catholic church has traditionally subsidized hospitals, orphanages, schools, and other resources. I would not say they show a lack of concern for the poor at all.

Truly, contraception issues also involve considerable power dynamics. They invented a female condom called "reality" because the reason was that men wouldn't be putting on condoms in various countries because it was un-macho.

Okay, let's assume Reality solves the pratical problem of contraception. Here's a wife all suited up against AIDS and what not. Now what about the relationship issues?

I ask you, if a man came home and found out his wife was wearing a condom because she didn't trust he wasn't infected by AIDS, you think the man is going to be thrilled?

I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be thrilled, even if I had in fact been sleeping with 10 women recently. This is my wife, she's supposed to trust and honor me, that's all there is to it.

For all I know, she's really cheating on me with somebody else now and using AIDS as an excuse to wear condoms.

(Package this in as much male chauvinist sentiment as you want, but it boils down to the same thing. He said no, she overrode him behind his back. What is he to think? What if he's allergic to latex and winds up with serious itching for a day afterwards thanks to Reality?)

Also keep in mind we are talking about cultures in which polygamy and wife beating may be accepted, where womens' rights are limited.

So, I think it's deluded to address the issue solely with condoms when the broader issues involve personal and societal attitudes. What about drug and other needle use? Anal sex? Condoms won't stop that.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Dana Priest swatting away another fly today on her chat:

"Washington: If a government employee is determined to have provided classified information to an unauthorized person (journalist) should that employee be fired? Prosecuted?

Dana Priest: Is that chum I see in the

Man that was almost as good as Joel's response to that "mysterious" guy from Aluminum Hat on his Wednesday chat. I guess he learned a lesson. Funny, still can't find it on the map. Must be one of those new boom methane-producing towns.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 9:39 PM | Report abuse

...And Saint Attila raised the hand grenade up on high, saying, "O Lord, bless this Thy hand grenade that with it Thou mayest blow Thine enemies to tiny bits, in Thy mercy." And the Lord did grin and the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths and carp and anchovies and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit bats and large chu... [Whereupon the friar is urged, "skip a bit, brother"]... And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it." Amen.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes we have to just back off, agree to disagree [insert cliche here].

Posted by: Yoki | May 17, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Error I can only speak for myself, I disagree as I said with Religious leaders, I am hoping they are wrong about the "criteria" for admittance to an afterlife, but cannot compromise on what I believe a just God would believe in, I think he would be horrified by some of the things we do in his name.

If I am wrong at least I can live with myself and if there is no God at all can't say I would live any differently.

Posted by: dmd | May 17, 2007 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Just spay-neuter all the troublesome people in the world on the least excuse.

The world's problems will be solved. Do I get a bone now?

Mudge, love that poem, and I'm glad I actually do like the gnome-- at least, some days anyways.

After all, there's the inward pleasure of knowing that if I wanted to, I could just forget my job and BOOM, no more gnome.

No bites, no foresnics, no nothing. I could easily set it up any day. Just like Lucky did. With five owners.

(Rolling on the floor, grinning with laughter.)

Posted by: Wilbrodog | May 17, 2007 9:56 PM | Report abuse

>>has the Catholic church done worse harm than the U.S. government who refuses to fund anything related to contraception and family planning through the UN, practically closing or defunding a lot of essential free clinics for women?

Debatable, but the US Government (outside of a few wingnuts) doesn't claim to be God's moral authority on earth. You're asking me to choose the lesser of two evils. I choose the one that theoretically responds to it's citizens. In a bit. Maybe.

There's a couple of male chauvinist straw pigs next. Yes women are treated abysmally. How many of those men do you think are atheists? I don't how to respond.

>>So, I think it's deluded to address the issue solely with condoms when the broader issues involve personal and societal attitudes. What about drug and other needle use? Anal sex? Condoms won't stop that.

The main problem in Africa is hetrosexual intercourse. Condoms will ameliorate that.
Anal sex? Why do you think gay men wear condoms?

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 10:06 PM | Report abuse

dmd, I'm hip. But if we're discussing religion, then it's their rules we're talking about. I'm not arguing with anyone's personal relationship with anything.

I'm just saying someone needs to fess up that the basic concept of religion really is one of exclusion.

You don't believe in Odin, you don't go to Valhalla.

I don't know why this is somehow controversial.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 17, 2007 10:07 PM | Report abuse

I think I can properly say the question is being begged here. I have no problem with the clergy telling Africans that Jesus doesn't want them to wear thingies on their John Thomases. I object to the church lying as to the effectivness of condoms to help prevent the transmission of AIDS.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

The April issue of a nice little magazine called "The Sun" [thanks, Joel, for the recommendation in a previous Kit] has some great quotes about prayer and religion in its "Sunbeams" section:

He didn't know exactly what to pray for, in which he was like most people. For our real prayer, if we had the wits or the courage to formulate it, would be a general plea for everything to be all right forever.

-- Angela Thirkell

I find it very difficult to ask God for things in the way that I was taught as a child. Do I believe God is going to take away my illness when he turned an entirely deaf ear to the 6 million Jews who went into the gas chambers?

-- Karen Armstrong

When we pray to God we must be seeking nothing -- nothing.

-- Saint Francis of Assisi

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish.

-- Source unknown

By means of all created things, without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers.

-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick every day.

-- Leonard Cohen

Most people do not pray; they only beg.

-- George Berbard Shaw

As my prayer became more attentive and inward, I had less and less to say. I finally became completely silent . . . . This is how it is. To pray does not mean to listen to oneself speaking. Prayer involves becoming silent, and being silent, and waiting until God is heard.

-- Soren Kierkegaard

Posted by: Dreamer | May 17, 2007 10:14 PM | Report abuse

With Wolfie out of the way it looks like it will now be Gonzales 24/7 again:

Really, we're gonna miss the constant surprises his ineptitude gave us.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired and am intrigued by RD Padouks 7:01.
Have I found a reason for moral philosophy?
How do recognize evidence and apply it to the problems RD raises? No wonder it put me off.

Night All.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 17, 2007 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Breaking away from the religious conversation to say -
Woo hoo - got my tickets to see Jethro Tull in Sep and Allison Kraus (with Jerry Douglas) in July. Saw Loreena McKennitt Tue - fabulous, fabulous music. So many interesting instruments, and they can really rock out on the electric guitar and violin too. And all the while she's telling stories about how the Celts wound up in China and the Russian steppes and all over the place.

Loved the Billy Collins poem(s). The Lanyard nearly choked me up (at work, again).

And can someone tell me what Melinda Doolittle was wearing last night - it said "Death Cheat" right across her bosom? At least that's what it looked like to me.

Now back to religion, or whatever.

Over (not out!).

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 17, 2007 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Mostly, we plan to see Allison Krauss this summer too. Looking very much forward to it.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer - this

Give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he'll starve to death while praying for a fish.

-- Source unknown

is funny! Thank you.

Posted by: Wheezy | May 17, 2007 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, apparently even scientists have evidence rebutting the concept of high rates of heterosexual sexual transmission of AIDS.

Without condoms, the AIDS tranmission rate is actually rather low for heterosexual intercourse per coital act. It just adds up. Condoms may or may not cut it, but in some areas there are up to 40% of married AIDS-infected people who have not infected their spouses even after years despite practicing unprotected sex.

This epidemiologist actually points to a more reasonable vehicle of transmission for the high rates of HIV infection in African women-- unhygenic medical, dental, or other practices involving the shedding of blood or cutting the body of the carrier (tattos, vaccinations, or circumcision, anybody?)

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 10:48 PM | Report abuse

Criminy - did I miss a rockin' day with the boodle or what? Or would it be *on* the boodle? *in* the boodle?

Dreamer - those quotes are a wonderful coda to the discussion today. I found the Karen Armstrong and Angela Thirkill quotes to
be closest to some of the struggles I have had with religion generally and my beliefs specifically.

I had a friend in my early twenties who said she had been born again and repeatedly tried to explain to me, a cradle Catholic, what it was I was missing. I never had the guts to tell her that the day she told me that she prayed to Jesus about what color to paint her room was the day I couldn't take her seriously. I suspect I sound politically incorrect and am condemning born again Christians, which I do not mean to do.

Error - your 5:15 about a guy who hasn't had any in 70 years speaks to some of my worries about Catholic clergy...and made me laugh. Not that I mean that I have worries about celibacy necessarily making priests ineffective (or worse) I just wonder how they can remain relevant....but that's another whole can o' worms.

I had lots of other penetrating and articulate thoughts on many boodle comments but just can't remember them now- except to say that I liked everything CP had to say. Now, how's that for penetrating and articulate?

Posted by: Kim | May 17, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

And thanks to Boko and Error (and others) for their arguments in favor of logic and reason.

Did anyone see Ann Coulter's column on Falwell? Amazing.

Posted by: Wheezy | May 17, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I gotta go to bed but I will leave you with this analogy:

"Give a man a fire and he's warm for a day, but set him on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life."

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Heck, even ear-piercing by HIV carriers with wounds would transmit AIDS pretty efficiently. The guy's right.

The science has been biased in favor of an unilateral conclusion everybody must be sinning like crazy in Africa. After all, everybody knows... oh, Duh!

This is another case of unconscious racism. Give the poor Africans condoms, for they cannot stop their sinning.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 17, 2007 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Wait - thoughts can't be articulate, can they?

Posted by: Kim | May 17, 2007 10:56 PM | Report abuse

Mostly-really appreciate your appropriate usage. over.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 17, 2007 10:59 PM | Report abuse

Those Slate articles are great. Thanks, bill e.

The first one discusses whether the president's continued the illegal wiretapping without the DOJ stamp of approval was illegal or legal, or if the president thought it was legal to continue.

But I think if he thought it was legal to continue without the DOJ approval, why did Gonzales and Card make their late-night hospital visit to get Ashcroft's approval? Why bother if they thought they didn't need it?

I like the way the article closes:

"The president is either above the law or he isn't. As it turns out, almost everyone who espoused the latter view has fled DoJ... As Ben Wittes puts it today, 'the bad guys won.'

"But that's not quite right. The bad guys were winning for a while because they picked the teams, set the rules, sidelined the referees, and turned off all the lights in the stadium. Congress has some work to do..."

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Wheezy, oh my - shouldn't have read that right before bed. There's a throbbing in my temple and my teeth hurt from clenching....

Posted by: Kim | May 17, 2007 11:02 PM | Report abuse

TBG: No worries :). Sorry for being a bit [quite] snarky on the reply. It has been mentioned before that blogging is not the ideal forum for religious discussion, as inflection and body language are lost, and I tend to over-react anyway.

'Mudge: thanks for asking. Yes, we are still making sweet geometric, ummm, yeah, we're still together. No plans for the future yet; taking it slow for now.

Posted by: Tangent | May 17, 2007 11:02 PM | Report abuse

bill everything, did you just make that up? For some reason, I loved it, even though I'm not sure I fully understand what it means. It's one of those things that's oh so terribly dreadful and yet, at the same time, so terribly funny. ("Warm for the rest of his [incredibly shortened] life"! Ha!)

Kim, I know what you mean about asking Jesus what color to paint one's room. I imagine Jesus might say, Take the money you were going to spend on your fancy schmancy colorful paint, and give it to the poor.

Posted by: Dreamer | May 17, 2007 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Nice to hear it, Tangent. Go and sine no more.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 17, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

warm for the rest of his life! ouch, coughed up a hairball over that.

Posted by: frostcat2 | May 17, 2007 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, sorry, not that inventive and, I'm afraid, it is just an example of dark humor as you surmised.

I figured anything that got away from the boodle "difficulties" this evening would be welcomed.

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 11:10 PM | Report abuse

If you do venture to read Ann Coulter's homage to Falwell, try this: read it like it's satire--pretend you're reading The Onion. That's the only way to stomach it.

Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 11:10 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: TBG | May 17, 2007 11:13 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, I hear that Tangent is getting a little "cosecant" on the side. What are we going to do about this?

Posted by: bill everything | May 17, 2007 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Science reports that the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL)is closing.

Here's a key paragraph from the story:

Founded by legendary ecologist Eugene Odum, SREL plays the role of "watchdog" of DOE's Savannah River cleanup . . . Research at the site showed DOE how to save billions in cleanup costs by demonstrating that a contaminated lake habitat could survive without being dredged . . . . Other studies have looked at how ash from coal plants, which DOE uses to produce power on the site, affects their surroundings.

I doubly mourn its passing as a former University of Georgia student.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 17, 2007 11:25 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod - You will (I think & hope) be amused by this -- I had just (a few moments ago) finished composing and was proofreading a long-winded comment taking issue with one of your earlier remarks when the electricity in my house cut off for about two seconds, just as I was about to click on the "submit" button for the comment. That caused my computer to re-boot, and gave me enough time to realize that I didn't actually need to bother tossing the remark out there.

I'll share this much of it: "Wilbrod, I'm a little taken aback. Until now, I don't think that I've EVER fundamentally disagreed with you about anything. Some occasional tactical differences, but nothing that was rock-bottom." (It probably won't amaze you that I was thinking of one of your comments earlier re: Pope / Catholicism / religion.)

I took advantage of the re-boot time to realize that you and I view (and, more relevantly, prioritize) many things differently, but probably don't actually fundamentally disgree about very much. It was a good thing that my remark was dispersed as random electron vapor.

The Lord does, indeed, work in mysterious ways!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 17, 2007 11:48 PM | Report abuse

How do you know it's time to call it a night? When you look frantically for half an hour for a thumb drive which has the only version of a Brazilian paged document that is due to be e-mailed tomorrow, then give up only to find it under the cat. No more puter time for Frostcat2. Funny how you always find things in the last place you look.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 17, 2007 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Frosty - I'm right behind you. G'nite!

Wheezy - I read the Coulter piece. Wow! Jeepers! Wholly crap! (yeah, that's exactly how I meant to spell it)

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Well, I tried back-boodling to catch up, but was distracted by the best thing the RCs ever came up with:

>>you will have to trust my patent leather shoes/plaid skirt of k-12

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 18, 2007 12:15 AM | Report abuse

Religio-Legal news: Alberta Court of Appeal rules province must allow for photoless driver's licences for Hutterites (similar to Amish). I prefer Slatter J.'s dissent.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 18, 2007 12:23 AM | Report abuse

Frosti this is SonofCarl I read you 5 by 5 on your voice procedure out.

Posted by: SonofCarl | May 18, 2007 12:26 AM | Report abuse

SoC - I might quibble over the whole best thing RC's have ever come up with...
but I don't deny that I think that the green plaid/khaki look that my children have been forced to deal with for their K-8 years may have a few benefits. But that's just me...I'm willing to think other methods work!

Posted by: Kim | May 18, 2007 12:36 AM | Report abuse

Bob S., for me the question is, did God cut off the electricity, or, at some level, were *you* responsible for that? Could it be that you didn't *really* want to post that comment, and the Universe created the conditions needed to ensure that the comment wasn't posted? (And I realize that these views might be repugnant *both* to scientists and to the more religiously inclined.)

I'm reminded of a scene in the recent film "Conversations With God." Neale Donald Walsh -- the subject of the film and the author of the books by the same name -- was at one time in his life homeless. He applied for a job at a radio station, giving the number at a public telephone box as his contact number. After several days of loitering around the box waiting for the call, he was horrified when a noisy road construction crew showed up in the vicinity, destroying all hope of an audible phone conversation. He started waving his arms and shouting for them to stop, but they didn't appear to notice. Then, for a brief moment, the noise stopped for some unrelated reason, and Walsh heard the phone ringing. He picked up the call, received instructions to come into the station for an interview, and replaced the receiver -- just in time for the racket to start up again.

On occasions like that, I always think, was that a coincidence, or not? And if not, who -- or what -- made that happen, exactly? A big guy in the sky with a long white beard? Or our own thoughts and intentions? Or, are these all the same thing? And do our existing religions help us interpret and understand these experiences -- and most of us have had them, even Gene Weingarten, with his coins-arranged-in-the-shape-of-a-cross experience -- or does religion as we currently know it just get in the way of our quest for the truth?

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 12:37 AM | Report abuse

I've had a busy day and a busy evening, but I will say today's been a spectacular day for the Boodle.


Posted by: bc | May 18, 2007 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Tangent, nice to see you and glad to hear that you and the lovely Cosine are still together. Hope you have more time to hang out here.

Ivansmom, your tale about Garrison Keillor is quite disheartening. What a glassbowl!

Dreamer, good quotes. I liked the last one - maybe it's my Quaker roots, or Trancendental Meditation training. (I'm still kind of stunned that David Lynch is into TM.)

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 12:43 AM | Report abuse

>Bob S., for me the question is, did God cut off the electricity, or, at some level, were *you* responsible for that?

Or maybe it's the ex-squirrel next to a transformer somewhere. :-)

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Sorry if I came on a bit strong. Too often in life we do get handed just one side of the issue, and make strong emotional judgments accordingly.

I'm myself guilty of that, and have had my eyes opened repeatedly as a result.

So it took one to know one in this case.

I actually would have agreed with Boko about the condoms and AIDS in Africa, because I've read the same hype from AIDS activitists blaming the church for impeding their efforts. AIDS is very politicized and the efforts strenous and sincere.

I however realized I never bothered to check my assumptions about the facts of heterosexual AIDS transmission in Africa.

The idea that medical and other workers could be spreading AIDS makes sense to me. I know that medical workers in America are unhappily at high risk for getting AIDS despite all precautions they take, including gloves, etc, and they often must retire from medicine if they are confirmed to be HIV + because of the risk of transmitting it to patients.

AIDS-centered safety for medical workers are unlikely to be anywhere as rigid in Africa as they would be here, and let's not forget barbers, even sharing toothbrushes with blood on them, etc.

Really, almost any person in a job or in a situation that could spread hepatitis C (which is spread by contact with blood only), could also spread AIDS.

Hepatitis C is less readily spread by sex, much less so than AIDS.

So if AIDS is being spread by sex and blood-borne transmissions are ruled out, Hepatitis C rates should not be significantly higher in Africa than elsewhere.

Well, it happens that hepatitis C rates are indeed higher in Africa than elsewhere. Check out the CDC figures.

So payingfor AIDS prevention in Africa by focusing on adequate medical supplies, hygenie, and better epidemiological research, would also yield twofer for reducing prevalance of hepatitis.

Sounds good to me. Dual hepatitis C-HIV infections raise five-fold the risk of mother-child infection with either disease, so hepatitis C is indeed a major health threat to pregnant women.

In fact, we could even argue that AIDS activists with their blind focus on condoms and sexual transmissions have done Africans a GREAT disservice by diverting AIDS funds away from distributing medical supplies and teaching hygenic procedures for preventing hepatitis C and other blood-borne infections, not just for AIDS.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 18, 2007 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Ok, Dreamer...I've thought about this for, lo...these many years...I'm still not sure that I've come to any conclusion, but I can vouch for the way I felt at the time.

I was working the 3-11 shift in an ICU. One of my patients was a lovely 70-something woman with end stage heart failure. There was nothing to be done, it was a waiting game. I was padding around at about 10:30pm doing the end of shift type things when she stirred and said, "Margaret, what are you doing?" I said something along the lines of my name is so-and-so and I was her nurse. Then I said, "Who is Margaret, is she someone I can call?" Then, holding my hand, she kind of snorted and said, " Oh no, isn't that silly, she was my godmother...I haven't thought of her for years." I can't really describe how I felt at that moment. Suffice it to say, it made me feel as though we're not just some gobs of chance matter. I'm not really doing justice to the moment (not a moment that I was looking for, believe me) but there you have it.
Well, with all of my doubts, I found that oddly comforting.

I think, all in all, religion as we know it gets in the way...but we can use the traditions and teachings to find our way...

whoa's time to go to bed!

Posted by: Kim | May 18, 2007 1:03 AM | Report abuse

pretty heavy-weight discussion. don't have much to add. going back to the kit, though, i wish to note the irony that the party of the religious right is the party that seems to be saying that the ends justify the means where torture is concerned. how very utilitarian of them.

concerning the "ends justify the means" issue, some russian religious philosophers thought that the bodily resurrection of all people had to occur at the end of history otherwise god would be guilty of using humanity as a mere means for some end, whether history or the kingdom of god or whatever.
can't vouch for the logic, but it's an interesting thought.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | May 18, 2007 2:10 AM | Report abuse

In the Church of What's Happenin' Now we don't have any theology, or any non-theology, and there ain't no doctrines. We welcome Falwells* and Hitchens both.** Some of you (MANY of you) might try us some time. But, please--leave your righteousness*** at home, wontcha?

*Actually, we do prefer live bodies, but that difficulty can be overcome if financial arrangements are made in advance. Especially in the case of Mr. Moral Majority himself.

**Of course, money, or equivalent goods and services, determines the relative warmth of the welcome. Ain't no freeloaders here.

***This includes any preconceptions you may have on just about any topic (just bring money).

Posted by: Medallion of Ferret | May 18, 2007 2:17 AM | Report abuse

Joel, back to your question: Why do bullet fragments from 3 bullets make a conspiracy more likely? There were 3 shell casings in the sixth floor sniper's perch. Most eye and earwitnesses reported 3 shots. The problem is that at least one of the 3 shots MISSED the limousine. There were sections of Elm Street's curb that showed evidence of an impact from a wayward bullet; and a bystander named James Teague on the far side of Dealey Plaza was struck in the cheek by fragments of the ricochet of the missed shot. This missed shot is why the "magic bullet" theory was so important: two shots had to account for all of the President's and Gov. Connolly's wounds. If the fragments recovered from the limo were from 3 different bullets then a shot is unaccounted for--thus a second shooter. I personally think all the shots came from the sixth floor of the TSDB, but I hope this answers your original question.

Posted by: Rick S. | May 18, 2007 3:02 AM | Report abuse

Oswald puts two shots on the money and misses the whole car with another shot, hitting the Elm street curb. That bullet flies into fragments, some of which ricochet into James Teague's cheek over across the plaza. Meanwhile, on the grassy knoll, Reverend Falwell carefully timed his shot to match one of Oswald's so no one would notice...

Well, it's too late to waterboard Jerry now. Maybe we can do Teague?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 3:49 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Cassandra, Boodle. Scotty's only been gone a few hours and already I miss his morning wake-up posts. I shoulda never let him take those couple a days off. *sigh*

I gotta say, the season cliffhanger of "Grey's Anatomy" left me open-mouthed in disbelief at least three different ways. First off (and this won't spoil anything for those who will watch the re-run tonight), the show was booked at 90 minutes--but ended at about 72 or maybe 73, by my clock, and then a 47-minute special "explanation" show tried to explain "Lost." I mean, was that weird or not? The one "surprise" in the show--the person at the very end who will become the new chief, was not a shock; you could see that coming a dozen miles away. On the other hand, I never saw the George development coming. Never had a clue. The wedding denouement was fifty-fifty, so its outcome wasn't much of a shocker either way. But I didn't see the Meredith-McDreamy development coming, either. Nor the name of the new girl intern George meets at the end (pay attention when you watch it--it has major implications).

The "Lost" thing I think was a half-a$$ed attempt to woo back viewers like me who decided the writers had pretty much lost it and had no idea what they were doing, so they felt they had to shore up the message that it all either makes sense, or will make sense by the time they're done. But that show is already down the tubes. Its new 3-year contract won't save it.

If you haven't read that Ann Coulter piece linked above, I think I'd urge you not to. That was the sickest piece of psycotic pandering I've ever read. You could almost smell the desperate air of death wish in it. It's like she climbed out the window onto the ledge, and just to make sure a crowd was gathering below, decided to do a few cartwheels. It was like a pundit cry for help from inside the mind of Charles Manson. I hear the phone ringing, but I hope no one in the firehouse answers. Let her jump, and then let the sanitation crew deal with the cleanup.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 6:44 AM | Report abuse

Frosti -- English spring continues here, perhaps in the wake of the Queen. Festiva Maxima still stands. The smell is fading, but I need an excuse to lean forward and place my nose dead-and-center within the blossom. Since the Gladiator movie, I always think of Russell Crowe, since Festiva Maxima works as Rome-ish name, or boodle handle for the bold.

I walked last night and rescued the Rose Campion flowers. Send Canadian Tire Money if the fuzz arrests me. I'll send up a flare. Don't confuse this with the aurora borealis.

I could hear Scotty Nuke fumbling awake (through THE FORCE, natch) and I report that after two cups of coffee, he went outside and shouted, "Live Free or Die."

Time: 4:26 AM

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Interesting discussing about religion last night. As a lasped Catholic, I prefer to be spiritual and find organized religions, from my relatively uninformed viewpoint, too overwhelmed with man-made rules and ideas. Trying to practice love and kindness towards others will do it for me.

Agree with you about "Lost," Mudge. I read the recaps online every Thursday from curiousity, but just can't waste an hour every week any longer to watch. I did get a boost knowing I made you snort yesterday. That and being referred to in the Kit kinda made my day.

Hope Scotty isn't getting the torrential rain up there in NH that we are experiencing here. We need it but it sure is gloomy. I will spend the day sewing new cushion covers for the porch furniture and trying to find less expensive health insurance. I have formulated plans A, B and C for the job search, B and C rely on more affordable coverage.

No way will I read Coulter, don't want to mess up my love and kindness philosophy.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | May 18, 2007 7:27 AM | Report abuse

G'mornin' boodle...

Something I wanted to share with y'all (but wanted to avoid yesterday's r*l*g*on debate). Anyway, a friend of mine that has battled the same physical disorder - and was in much worse shape than I, just a couple years ago - is in remission and I found out she has been taking *trapeze lessons*. Flying! And I was delighted for her (and envious!). So, I looked up hang-gliding information (my own wish-to-fly dream) and found out that (unlike 1982, when I first tried it) yes, they do indeed now have lightweight rigs that can accommodate limited mobility and by gum, I'm determined to get strong enough to do it. All I need it a little more stamina than I have now. I can already make it up on my roof.

Having a goal helps with pain control, too (a better goal than "must... get... this... work... done... or... lose... house...", that is)

Gonna fly. :-)

Posted by: sevenswans | May 18, 2007 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Memo: Please revise this line of "On the first day of Xmas"

sevenswans a swimming


sevenswans a flying.

Film to be posted to YouTube when available.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

Boko999 - What I was stating, rather poorly, is a realization I picked up from the book "Aristotle's Children." The essence of this is an understanding that even staunch atheists who claim to value Science above all still have lurking within them certain principles that must be accepted without proof. That it is wrong to needlessly inflict pain is one such principle.

Although logical and self-consistent arguments can, and should, be constructed from these basic tenets, they themselves must be either accepted or rejected purely on something akin to an aesthetic criterion.

I further have come to accept that this underlying level of irrational belief is an inescapable part of being a functioning human. Envisioning a pattern of behavior absent such "self evident" notions invariably leads to conclusions that I find too cruel and ugly to accept.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Sevenswans - I hope your wish to fly comes true.

When I was a teen I thought hang-gliding was the most way-cool neato-frito thing out there. Alas, the opportunity never came to pass.

Sometimes I still dream of flight. In such dreams I harness fierce concentration to lift myself up and meander through the clouds.

Unfortunately, in those same dreams I also realize I am naked and need to take a test in some class that I forgot to attend.

But the flying part is always cool.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Rachel Carson's birthday -- today would be 100 -- reminds me of this local history footnote.

Carson taught a laboratory course at UMCP for several semesters. Her basic biology lab was in Morrill Hall, the oldest academic building on campus. Morrill honors Justin Morrill, the senator from Vermont, who at the end of the Civil War, developed legislation that eventually became the Land Grant Institution Act. From that move, grew colleges in each state charged with teaching the practical arts and sciences;

*agriculture sciences, like agronomy and animal husbandry and beekeeping
*business science like accounting

The practical move was truly the democratization of higher education away from the elite institutions who arose, in part as theology schools for clergy.

Morrill Hall, as BC and few others may recall, stands on a hill, topped by a darling cupola remniscent of a New England widow's walk. The mansard roof immitates the British fondness for Frenchi-fied Second Empire architecture. I believe the building dates from 1908.

My graduate school department was housed in Morrill for about ten years. I adored the pressed tin ceiling. Some documentation suggested that Carson's lab was in the basement. I liked knowing that on the occasions of dashing down those stairs. The basement was lit by one naked bulb with a pull-down chain.

Oh yes, knitting this into coherence: What is my graduate degree in? Environmental policy -- one of the first such programs in the county.

Thank you Miss Carson. You live on by your ideas and words.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I went hang gliding once at Kitty Hawk. Absolutely awesome.

RD, I thought your post about how we all accept irrational beliefs should probably have been repeated last night about every 5 posts...

I say this as a guy who's recently been given Lourdes water - and used it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Mudge, for the 411 on the Coulter piece. I will avoid it and appreciate your taking one for the team so that the rest of us can remain innocent of that particular vitriol.

Bad Sneaks, if you would send rain this way, we would appreciate it! This morning's walk was cool; the jacket felt good. I hope we will have summer sometime, and I promise not to complain (too much) about it!

Quotes from my refrigerator door:

"When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left over, I buy food and clothes." Erasmus

"Everything can be taken from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances." Viktor Frankl

"The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left." Anonymous

"The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace."
Mother Teresa

Posted by: Slyness | May 18, 2007 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all!

Had a great conversation last night with a friend who was just selected for promotion to Brigadier General. This is good news for all of us I think, that people who put others before self and career can still make it in the Army. (This is the guy who was not selected for the Mark Graner Abu Ghraib jury because he answered the "Have you followed this in the press?" question with "Yes, and it made me sick" while others said "yes, but the press always twists things.")

CP-We could use some English rain up here. I have had to water moss in my little woodland dell. It would survive without intervention. But I didn't spend a year just learning the path of the sun across the summer sky, and another year preparing everything to look natural, just for the moss to look naturally brown.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 18, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Frosti -- you, the Gertrude Jekyll of the North. Oh, the lovely artiface of gardening. Art imitating life. Art idealizing life. Art improving on life.

I bet that some of your army/mil buds know my brother. Like attracts like. Ya know, the really good peeps who keep that moral compass in working order. Who knew that such behavoir would become the exception and not the rule.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

One of my office mates and I are laughing: out of 16 people in our section, there's only four of us in today. We know one is on detached duty in another section (tho whether he's in we don't know, but the point is, he's not here); the boss is telecommuting from home on some sort of govt. exercise; two are on RDO (regular days off); one is on vacation in Jamaica--and we don't know where the hell the rest are. But it's OK. Your government is still functioning smoothly.

*bidding three no trump*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

frosti, so glad that one of the good guys made good. So often they get trampled in the stampede to promotion. A dear friend of the family, another of the good guys, succinctly summed up his management philosophy: "The successes belong to the crew; the failures are mine." Naturally, he never got promoted above Captain.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 9:24 AM | Report abuse

CP, what a beautiful writing about Rachel Carson. Thanks.

Posted by: daiwanlan | May 18, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

My experience with friends who were raised RC but went off into Moonies or Bhagwan Shree Rajhneesh or something like that suggests that RC helps create a desire for religious experience but doesn't satisfy it.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 9:41 AM | Report abuse

CP- I am absolutely flushed red and warm from the Jekyll comparison. I am sure we are connected to CP Bro' by fewer than 3 Bacon degrees.

The officer promotion system is most infuriating when it fails the worthy of advances the unworthy. I bleieve it is most likely to do this at the Captain level in the Army. So many of them, and such a short career to be evaluated, when they must make that first big hurdle to Major. This is the point where I think the self serving have the best leg up on the good guys.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 18, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

SCC- fails the worthy or advances the unworthy



Posted by: frostbitten | May 18, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I hear you Mudge. This mornings drive in was 'Rush hour? What rush hour.'

I predict that there will be only the secretaries in the office today, because everyone else has these mysterious all day meetings where they can't be reached on their cell phones, but they will call in at noon, only no one ever does. Do I sound bitter?

About 4 years ago, the 2, then 3 secretaries, started a rotating, highly illicit early out. I told them it was okay'd, but I didn't ask (sometimes you have to make this executive secretarial crap work for you). We'd work through lunch, and leave at 3. It took 2 years before anyone noticed. We didn't try to hide it. No one ever asked or was in often enough for anyone to notice. But it made a world of difference to the way we all thought about our jobs on a Friday afternoon. Instead of no one accomplishing anything because it felt like we were stuck here till 5, we all worked just a little harder, to make the day count and feel good about leaving early. The grand sum of time lost to the boss, is 1 hour a week, but to each of us, arriving home on Friday before 4, is like gaining a whole other day.

It doesn't take a whole lot to entertain us around here.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 9:47 AM | Report abuse

dr-Ma Frostbitten accepted her current position, office manager/legal secretary, on the condition that the office would close at 3:00 every Friday (2 hours early). The lawyers may stay if they want, but they do so without any office staff. They have had 0 personnel turnover in 10+ years, despite some changes to the pension and health plans that might have driven people to greener pastures. Apparently there is no greener pasture than a Friday early out.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 18, 2007 9:55 AM | Report abuse

This is one of the great things about working in Calgary. Every single office has an unofficial Friday early-out tolerance. It started in the late 80s when the oil patch was in the doldrums; most people had nothing to do all week, and the early out on Friday afternoons was sort of compensation for sitting around, bored stiff, all the other days.

Our office is less tolerant of it (on account of being type-A lawyerly sorts) but that doesn't mean one can't slip away between 2:30 - 3:00 every now and then. No-one ever says a word. I guess if one weren't super-productive the rest of the time we'd be shut down, but when people regularly work 7:30 am to 9:00 pm (or whatever) an hour clawed back of a Friday isn't much to sacrifice.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

We will be out early as well dr, our usual practise on long weekends and the occasional Friday when the weather is nice.

Pleasant drive in seems most people are taking a 4 day weekend (kids are off school today here).

dr, did the gas prices jump overnight there as well for the long weekend?

Error, hope the Lourdes water works, I did chuckle at that though only because I can no longer see that name and not pronounce it in my head the way Madonna does for her daughter - yes I do not take pride in this.

Good day all

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. What a heavy boodle yesterday! I missed some good conversations, but tried to read through them this morning.

Ivansmom, that is good what you're doing with the Boy talking about our history. I did not know it was against the law to march and congregate as a people to express disagreement with something. I think the bigger sin was the treatment African-Americans were subjected to opposed to rebelling against it.

We talk about religion all the time here, and there are many feelings and beliefs that are so different. And people get so upset about religion. We have those that don't believe, and we have those of us that believe. I am pretty sure most of you know what camp I belong to. I don't apologize for it.

Well, my work is done for the year concerning school. The children have their test next week, and after that school will be over. My hope is that I can work with the summer program helping some with their reading and math.

It has been a joy for me, although I have been sick most of the time. Just don't have the energy I used to have, get so tired at the end of the day. Yet I love it, and would not change anything, except getting more kids to participate.

And thank you kind boodle friends for your help with my effort in the reading and math department by sending me all those good books. You are truly lovely and delightful , and true friends indeed.

I have a doctor's appointment today, but will not be able to make it. I have to pay the bill before I can get to see the doctor, so that is going to take awhile. That's okay, not really anxious to see this guy. Just a little tired of these white coats.

Have a good day, folks. The boodle was really jumping yesterday. All that spirited talk (for lack of a better word). Whatever your belief is or is not, know that God is love. And that religion, true religion, is heart work.

Thanks, JA

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ. Peace.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 18, 2007 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Early out? I'm taking a "late-in" today. Still at home, boodle skimming and then heading to work. That's just as good, too, you know. Especially when no one else is home. Ahhh.

About Garrison Keillor: you didn't think he was a glassbowl earlier than this? Just read the Wikipedia entry about his second marriage:


To Ulla Skaerved (a former exchange student from Denmark whom he famously re-encountered at a high school reunion), from 1985 to 1990. Keillor is mildly notorious for having dumped his long-time lover and PHC producer Margaret Moos to marry Skaerved. The marriage failed when Keillor had an affair with his Danish language teacher.

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The wheel of gunmint will turn slowly indeed. This will be a long weekend here in Haute-Maine, Victoria Day is next Monday, and so many have taken the day off today to make it a very long weekend. I could sit and read in the bus this morning, much better than standing and hanging for dear life to one of the post.

The tulips are pretty much gone now, although some late varieties are still in bloom. The apple and pear trees are in full glory. At home, the red-leaves euchera (Coral bells?) are putting on their best spring display of red and pink flowers on long stems. And no, they are not planted in a row.

The big news today in the city is the presence of a whooping crane. Crane no.309, a known troublemaker, has strayed away from her buddies and came to Canada. Ms. 309 is known for shunning Florida and staying in South Carolina during the winter and seems to prefer Michigan, New York and now Ontario for her summer season. Plans may be made to catch it and bring it closer to the flock in Wisconsin. It's the northernmost whooping crane sighting since the re-introduction program and Ottawa's birding community is all atwitter.

Hopefully it will end in a better way than when a pink flamingo showed up in Gaspésie one summer. After the very tame bird entertained the tourists for a few weeks a stupid teenager threw a rock at it and killed it. The kid was charged and condemned but the bird remained dead.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 18, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Mornin' everyone...

I intentionally sat out the religious discussion last night and was still debating whether to weigh in on it this morning. But then as I was pouring my fourth cup of coffee and watching the morning unfold outside my kitchen window (a very beautiful morning, btw), my moment of Zen was topped off with a Thought I feel compelled to share: the proverbial "God-shaped hole".

Humans are born with an insatiable need to feel unconditional love and acceptance. We try to satisfy that craving with worldly things -- relationships, material stuff, knowledge, power, alcohol, drugs, etc. -- but ultimately learn that what comes from this world is fleeting (at best), leaving us with what? A big freaking hole that still needs filling.

I was an agnostic for many years and even now, my internal jury is still out on concepts such as the existence of an afterlife. I've also yet to find a religious body or code that encompasses my personal beliefs or (more importantly) truly practices what they preach (organizationally speaking).

In fact, I agree with atheists on many of their points regarding religion -- the contradictions, the hypocrisy, the exclusivity. Where I respectfully disagree with atheists is their absolute rejection of the existence of a Higher Power or First Cause on the basis that there is no evidence to prove otherwise.

But I digress...

My point is that when we realize that nothing of this world can satisfy our innate craving for unconditional love and acceptance -- the "God-shaped hole" -- the only remaining option we have (IMHO) is to reach beyond this plane of existence to fill it. Whether it's the God of Abraham, Mother Nature, the Flying Spaghetti Monster or whatever, it seems to me (and this is just my personal observation) that our brains are hardwired to yearn for a connection to a Creator.

I can only speak from personal experience, but when I consciously opened up that connection, I felt whole. I also found that having that connection enabled me to do something that neither I nor medical science could do -- stop drinking.

That said, I believe that belief (or non-belief) is the most personal of personal matters. To tell someone that their belief/non-belief system is wrong -- or worse, to belittle or ridicule them because of it -- only proves the ignorance and self-important know-it-allness of the speaker (which applies to both Hitchens and Falwell). In other words, it is impossible for anyone to speak with definitive, universal authority on what cannot be proved or disproved -- all you got is personal experience.

-- holy guano... I spent almost three hours writing this post?! So much for getting an early start on work.

Peace, my friends.

(oh... and today'll B-52)


Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Martooni - Perhaps to celebrate this auspicious milestone you should splurge on some Rock Lobster.

This has been your obscure pop culture reference of the day.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

RD: Yes... a little Rock Lobster with a side of Quiche Lorraine would be nice. Now if I only had a Love Shack in my very own Private Idaho on Planet Claire we could have one heck of a Party Out of Bounds.

And tomorrow I hope to find my self 53 Miles West of Venus.

Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

RD -- my boy drums that song his iPod so I only hear the drum line.

Off with the CAR to pick up 66 papers for grading. This so ironic, since today is National Bike to Work, etc.

I rode each day this fall, for a perfect semester streak, again.

Go Martooni Man!

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Your going west of Venus, Martooni? Have a good trip. Just stay out of Mianus.

BTW, if you spent three hours writing your 10:32, it was worth every minute. I thought it was excellent (ahem, perhaps because it just about exactly matches my thoughts on the subject). So you've saved me three hours, and done a better job of it than I would have. So thanks.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

RD, that's one heck of a tune cootie you planted. I'm dancing around my laptop as I'm writing this, and remembering when I saw the B-52s do that song on "Saturday Night Live" - geez, has to be close to 30 years ago.

Good morning folks, I'm off work today to attend to some personal business and to spend some of the afternoon with a magazine exec friend up in Carlisle PA to discuss some work we're doing together. And to look at some cool old cars - but I digress.

martooni, that was a nice summary, thanks.

And CP, why yes I do remember Morrill Hall, and heard some of the stories of Ms. Carson. Thanks for bringing that up.

On a related note, a quick item for Global Warming Friday re. a study that indicates the oceans may be losing their ability to absorb carbon from the air due to increased wind speeds (a result of warmer air carrying more energy, right?):

I enjoyed the religion discussion, even though I don't have the time to participate in it as thoughtfully as I would like.


Posted by: bc | May 18, 2007 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, based on Martooni's last post, I'd say he's headed for Planet Claire.

Posted by: byoolin | May 18, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

martooni, I'm sorry your post took up 3 valuable hours, but I'm very glad you did it. Beautiful, just beautiful. Congratulations on 52.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Well since I dominated the boodle with a weighty topic yesterday, today I switch to humour and the anniversary of the great Canadian movie - Strange Brew. If you can't laugh at yourself or your country life just isn't as much fun.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 11:07 AM | Report abuse

"Take off!/
It's a beauty way to go!"

Posted by: byoolin | May 18, 2007 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Wait - dmd - are you implying that the exploits of Bob and Doug McKenzie do not accurately reflect Canada?

Boy, do I ever have a lot of memos to pull back.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Martooni, you wondered after your ability to write poetry the other day. Not to worry, your ability to write prose is clearly alive and well.

52 first days. Nice.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I can say this 'cause ScottyNuke's out of own.

I think "Take Off" was Geddy Lee's best work.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 11:15 AM | Report abuse

"One of the funniest parts of the special, [Dave] Thomas says, is former prime minister Paul Martin's deadpan appearance as he pleads for Canadians to reject the Bob and Doug stereotype once and for all. At one point, Martin sadly recalls: "I'll never forget the four-year-old girl in Buenos Aires who looked up at me with her pretty eyes and asked, 'Where's your beer, you knob?"'

Posted by: byoolin | May 18, 2007 11:16 AM | Report abuse

byoolin... yup -- in my Plymouth Satellite. But I'm not dying my hair green. I'm not completely stuck in the 80s, y'know.

Mudge... thanks -- don't often get compliments from you ornery editor types. And no worries... I plan to give your painted blue bottom a wide berth. Venus is a long way from Uranus. ;-)

bc... if you have a camera handy, I'd appreciate pics of any bus sightings (or anything of interest in the air-cooled VW family). Stella is due for redecoratin' (as in more brushed-on Rustoleum) and I'm looking for ideas.

Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Not sure RD, there is an awful lot of Bob and Doug in my husband :-)

Martooni and CP forgot to mention how wonderful I thought your posts were.

Boko and Error you make me think I like that.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

raysmom... it was a very good 3 hours. Cathartic, even (in the emotional purge sense, not the laxative one).

dr... thanks. Funny you should mention the poetry. I have two things planned today (well, two things in addition to my Handy Hippie and Father of Bean duties): blow the dust off my guitar and play a tune or three for Bean; write a poem about it.

Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Not sure about Doug and Bob, but there's a bit of Red Green in Raysdad.

"The handyman's secret weapon--duct tape."

"The happiest day of my life was the day the Leafs traded for Dougie Gilmore." (OK, substitute "Islanders" and "Mike Bossy."

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 11:42 AM | Report abuse

I just zipped over to IMDB to look at the entry for "Strange Brew." Evidently, based upon my interest in this movie, the website feels I would also enjoy "Hamlet."

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I have seen all sorts of early Friday schedules. Nine hours a day and alternate Fridays off. Nine hour days and off at noon on Friday. Four ten hour days and all day Friday off. Or just sneak out.

I'm sneaking out early today because I have to drive my family out to The Plains for the TARC National Rocket Competition tomorrow. 100 teams of middle and high school students will be shooting off rockets for a chance at a scholarship.

If you are in the area of Great Meadow tomorrow, come by and check it out.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 18, 2007 12:03 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha. Due to a now incomprehensible romantic entanglement many years ago, I ended up spending a fair amount of time in some villages north of Kingston, south of Smiths Falls. Lovely old towns in the Loyalist Belt - big brick houses with wide verandas; gorgeous trees; beautiful river banks. Almost without exception, the people *were* Bob & Doug.

Later, in Revelstoke, most of the men I met *were* Red Green. I guess stereotypes and cliches arise for good reasons.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Finally Bob and Doug are getting the recoginition they deserve for their fine documentary "Strange Brew." Many of you hosers may not be aware that Canadians are famous for our fine documentaries, eh?

Technical Note:
The grey (yes, that's right) plastic tape known as duct tape is not the proper tape for sealing ducts. You should use metal tape, readily available at Canadian Tire.

Take Off!!

Posted by: Hoser999 | May 18, 2007 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, for me the terms "incomprehensible" and "romantic entaglement" are virtual synonymous, and therefore somewhat grammatically redundant.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Hey Yoki, I live in Jasper, On., hard by Toledo, west of Merrickville.
Beauty, eh?
Now I must go and buy the proper explosives to celebrate Queen Vickie's Day.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Nice subhead on the home page under the heading White House, Senate Strike Immigration Deal: Sprawling overhaul grants temporary legal status to virtually all illegal immigrants, stiffens border protections; stage set for battle in Congress.

Last I checked, the Senate was part of Congress. Think they mean the House.

Sorry. I'm just picky that way.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 12:31 PM | Report abuse

From my Navy days, I know that Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, when they are not "inside", *work* at the Halifax Shipward.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 18, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Dave, I think your five something post on the waterboarding kit was nice. I don't believe men (human race) will do that. We usually like to worship those gods that we set up, money, sex, men, women, material possessions, etc. I suspect if we allow our conscience to dictate our actions or we believe that God is really watching, the world may become a place we don't recognize, and upon that scenario we would probably blow it up. We see what we're doing for the one we have.

God made man a rational creature. Therefore he gave man the choice of choosing the cursing or the blessing, life or death.

In the end we all make our choices. We choose what we want to believe or not believe. And we answer for those choices, not someone else. What I believe does not affect your outcome, and what you believe does not affect mine. And we most certainly share one thing in common, and that is, we are not for this world long. Death is the great equalizer. Whatever we feel or think goes with us to that grave.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 18, 2007 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful Cassandra

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

There's a piece in Salon relevant to our general discussion that ties in with several of our other favorite themes, developmental biology and genetic "hard wiring," etc. It's long, and for that I apologize, and I've cut some non-germane chit-chat out of it. Wolpert says two things I find strange, and note them in brackets. Here it is:

Manufacturing belief

The origin of religion is in our heads, explains developmental biologist Lewis Wolpert. First we figured out how to make tools, then created a supernatural being.

By Steve Paulson

May. 15, 2007 | In Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," Alice tells the White Queen that she cannot believe in impossible things. But the Queen says Alice simply hasn't had enough practice. "When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." That human penchant for belief -- or perhaps gullibility -- is what inspired biologist Lewis Wolpert to write a book about the evolutionary origins of belief called "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast."

Wolpert is an eminent developmental biologist at University College London. Like fellow British scientist Richard Dawkins, he's an outspoken atheist with a knack for saying outrageous things. Unlike Dawkins, Wolpert has no desire to abolish religion. In fact, he thinks religious belief can provide great comfort and points to medical studies showing that the faithful tend to suffer less stress and anxiety than nonbelievers. In Wolpert's view, religion has given believers an evolutionary advantage, even though it's based on a grand illusion.

He has a theory for why religion first took root. He thinks human brains evolved to become "belief engines." Once our ancient ancestors understood cause and effect, they figured out how to manipulate the natural world. In essence, toolmaking made us human. Similarly, early hominids felt compelled to find causes for life's great mysteries, including illness and death. They came to believe in unseen gods and spirits.

Wolpert sees human credulity all around him -- not just religious faith but all sorts of modern superstitions. His book targets astrology, psychics, homeopathy and acupuncture. Wolpert has participated in public debates with maverick scientist Rupert Sheldrake about telepathy and other paranormal experiences. He dismisses Sheldrake's theory -- that "morphic fields" can transmit thoughts through space and time -- as nonsense.

There's no doubt that Wolpert is a provocateur, but unlike some other prominent atheists, he doesn't come across as a bitter enemy of religion. In conversation, his pronouncements are often punctuated by laughter and mock horror. I spoke with Wolpert by phone about the origins of religion, his doubts about telepathy and acupuncture, and why the debate over religion is so personal for him.

Can you explain the "belief engine" in the human brain?

What makes us different from all other animals is that we have causal beliefs about the physical world. I know that if I throw this glass at the window, it's probably going to break. Children have this understanding at a very early age. Animals, on the other hand, have a very poor understanding of cause and effect in the physical world. My argument is that causal understanding gave rise to toolmaking; that was the evolutionary advantage. It's toolmaking that's really driven human evolution. This is not widely accepted, I'm afraid, but there's no question about it. It's tools that really made us human. They may even have given rise to language.

But there is evidence that some animals have a very primitive form of toolmaking.

There's no question that certain apes are at the edge of causal understanding and they do make some very simple tools. Chimpanzees can break a nut with a stone. They can also take a stick and peel it to get ants out of a tree. But it's still very primitive. Curiously, some crows show remarkable toolmaking, using sticks to get things out of bottles. [Seagulls know to drop shells on rocks to break them open. And isn't the entire Pavlovian response a kind of "cause-and-effect"? I dunno.] But on the whole, it's primitive compared to us.

And I suppose the radically new thing our ancestors did was to put two objects together -- for instance, a piece of stone on a wooden handle.

Precisely. You can't do that without having a concept of cause and effect. And once you had that concept, you wanted to understand the causes of other things that mattered in your life, like illness. That's the origin of religion. The most obvious causes were those things caused by humans, so people imagined there was some sort of god with human characteristics. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different gods in different societies.

So once you have an understanding of cause and effect, then ignorance is no longer tolerable? You want to explain everything.

Exactly. You know, we cannot tolerate not knowing the causes of things that affect our lives. If you go to the doctor when you're ill, the one thing you can't stand is the doctor saying he or she has no idea what's wrong with you. And when they do diagnose you, I'm prepared to bet that on your way home, you'll tell yourself a story as to why you got ill.

But which came first: understanding cause and effect or learning to make tools?

They went together, but you cannot make complex tools without a concept of cause and effect. You must remember that no animal has a basket. If they go away from water, they can't take any water with them. They can't carry things.[I don't understand why or how he says this. I can think of many animals that carry things from A to B all the time; nest building, feeding their young, etc.] However, we're driven by interacting with our environment and looking for causes that affect our lives.

Are you saying our brains are hard-wired for belief?

Our brains are absolutely hard-wired for causal belief. And I think they're a bit soft-wired for religious and mystical belief. Those people who had religious beliefs did better than those who did not, and they were selected for.

Why did they do better?

They were less anxious. They also had someone to pray to. In general, religious people are somewhat healthier than people who don't have religious beliefs.

Haven't studies shown that religious believers tend to be more optimistic, and that they're less prone to strokes and high blood pressure?

Yes, exactly. Therefore, evolution will select them.

So religion gives us a sense of purpose and meaning, even though in your view it's totally an illusion.

Yes, many people would find it very hard to live without religion. But there is no meaning, I regret to tell you. [Laughs] We don't understand where the universe came from. But to say God made it, well, you want to say, who made God?

To say there's no meaning is a pretty depressing assessment, isn't it?

No, why should there be a meaning? I mean, we want a cause as to why we're here, but I'm afraid there isn't one. I don't find it depressing at all. I think it's remarkable that evolution has brought us into being. We're only here for one purpose, from an evolutionary point of view, and that's to reproduce.

You write that you were once quite a religious child yourself. When did you turn away from religion?

I came from quite a conventional Jewish family -- not Orthodox, but conventional -- in South Africa. I had to say my prayers every night.
And I used to pray to God to help me in various things but found it didn't help. So I stopped being religious.

Your son became a fundamentalist Christian after a difficult late adolescence. Is he still an evangelical Christian?

No, he's not. The church he was in broke up. He's still a believer, but he doesn't go to church.

Does his faith bother you?

No. I found that religion was helping him a great deal. It gave him someone to pray to. He became a member of a church where they could discuss their problems. And I think the idea that he would eventually go to heaven gave him a great deal of encouragement.

Has your son read the chapter on religion in your book? It's rather dismissive of religion.

He knows I'm dismissive of it. In fact, I just spoke to him last night on the telephone and asked him, "Did I ever try to dissuade you from being religious?" He said, "No, you never did." I wouldn't agree with him, but I never tried to dissuade him not to be.

Do you find yourself wondering about ultimate meaning? Does that matter in your life?

Never. Ultimate meaning has no meaning in my life. I sound a bit shallow, but I think it's actually quite deep not to be bothered by that sort of thing.

You call David Hume your "hero philosopher." Why do you like him so much?

First of all, I don't like any other philosopher. I think philosophers are terribly clever but have absolutely nothing useful to say whatsoever. I avoid philosophy like mad. But David Hume does say such interesting and important things. He's very good on religion, for example. I like him for that.

Well, he didn't like religion.

No, it's not that he didn't like religion. If you take miracles, for example, there's a lovely quote from David Hume that you shouldn't believe in any miracle unless the evidence is so strong that it would be miraculous not to believe in it.

There are various competing theories about the origins of religion. One is the idea that religion evolved because it helped bind people together in social groups. Essentially, it acted like social glue. Why don't you think that's right?

I don't think it's wrong. There is some evidence that religion does lead to a community with shared views. But you have to ask, Why does religion deal so much with cause and effect? That comes from causal beliefs.

What about Daniel Dennett's idea that religion is a kind of "meme" -- an idea that has infected human cultures and keeps on spreading?

If you could tell me what a meme is, and how useful it is, I'd be very grateful. [Laughs] Please don't misunderstand, I'm a great admirer of Richard Dawkins [who developed the concept of memes]. But what are memes? How do you decide whether something is a meme or not? And what you really want to understand is, how is it passed on and why does it persist? This is never discussed. So for Daniel Dennett -- who's a philosopher, after all -- to get involved with memes, the moment he does that, I just stop reading him.

Virtually all these theories draw on evolutionary psychology. But I wonder if we're losing the flavor of religious experience, the willingness to live in mystery, embrace imagination and intuition.

Sometimes I've thought it must be quite nice to believe in religion. I'm getting quite old. The idea that I might go to heaven -- of course, there's also the possibility, in my case, that I would go to hell -- is quite an attractive one. Unfortunately, I don't believe that for a single second. I mean, the evidence for God is simply nonexistent.

Isn't there more to religion than belief in supernatural beings?

Certainly not.

But many theologians and scholars, such as historian Karen Armstrong, say religion at its root is not really about a set of beliefs. It's more about how to live your life and being compassionate in the world.

Well, many people who are atheists can behave quite well. That doesn't make us religious. No, it doesn't work like that at all.

I grant that. But do you really think religion comes down to belief in the supernatural?

When I talk about religion, I'm talking about belief in the supernatural. In Western society, we're talking about God. I don't believe you can be religious without having some concept of a god.

What about William James? He talked about religion as experience more than belief.

I think "The Varieties of Religious Experience" is one of the best books written about belief. Nothing has really changed since he wrote it a hundred years ago. He did point out that many people become religious because they had a religious experience. And that fits with my idea that we're partly wired to have religious beliefs. If you take the active component of a magic mushroom and give it to a group of people, quite a few of them will have mystical, almost religious, beliefs. It must mean the circuits are there which are turned on by the drug.

So it all comes down to the chemicals that are firing in the brain?

I'm afraid so. Your neural circuits, yes.

What about paranormal experiences like telepathy or life after death?
Are those bogus?

Yes. All bogus. I have a very close friend, an artist, who claims to have seen three ghosts. She knew they were ghosts because they didn't have legs, and they told her things about the house she was staying in that she didn't know before. Yes, she had strange experiences. It doesn't mean they were ghosts. And I don't believe telepathy. Rupert Sheldrake, who's an old friend of mine, is a strong promoter of telepathy and things like that. I'm afraid the evidence just isn't there.

Rupert Sheldrake is a biochemist who used to teach at the University of Cambridge.

Oh, he was a very clever plant cell biologist.

He's done various controlled experiments trying to figure out whether people know who's going to phone them, or whether dogs know when their owners are coming home. You're saying none of that is legitimate science?

It's legitimate, but I'm unimpressed by all of it.

Let's talk about one of his experiments. He did a controlled study of what he calls "telephone telepathy." People were asked to give four phone numbers of friends. The callers were chosen randomly and then asked to guess who was calling. The statistical probability was that 25 percent of the guesses would be right. Sheldrake said the responses were more like 45 percent.

I'd like to see someone else do the experiment and have it confirmed. Remember what David Hume said? In order to believe in miraculous things, the evidence should be so miraculous that you could not but believe it.You can't just do one experiment like that on such an extraordinary thing like telepathy.

Telepathy goes against everything we know about neurophysiology and physics. If telepathy exists, it would be a miracle.

That's why I go back to Hume. The evidence has to be overwhelming.

Listen, almost everybody has a strange, non-normal experience once a year. Many, many people have these. If you take the right drugs, you can have them on order. People taking LSD had the most extraordinary experiences. Those experiences were real, but they had nothing to do with the real world.

Well, telepathy goes against the understanding that the mind is totally the product of the neural processes within the brain, which is certainly the dominant thinking among neuroscientists.

You also have to transmit that message over distances into somebody else's mind. That's just nonsense.

What if there are forces out there -- perhaps energy fields, as Sheldrake would say -- that we just haven't discovered yet?

(Laughs) OK, when he discovers them, he'll let us know. I'm saying you really have to have good evidence. And there isn't any.

When my grandfather was 16 years old, he heard an odd sound, looked up and saw the photograph of his grandfather knocking on the wall in the living room. This was so unusual that he checked the time it happened. Later that day, his family got a telegram saying that his grandfather had died at precisely that time. Is that just coincidence?

Well, that is remarkable and I don't have an explanation. I'm afraid it probably is coincidence. But it does sound as if it's some sort of telepathic experience. And we all have that. You're thinking of someone and suddenly they phone you. You haven't spoken to them for six months and suddenly the phone rings and there they are. OK, I don't have a good explanation for that. But to think that there's some message going across is just most unlikely.

Unlikely yes, but doesn't this get at the limits of science?

No, it's not the limits of science. You've got to find experiments that will really show it. Science can't rely on anecdotes, on single, one-off experiences like this. You've got to find some way of testing them.

Maybe the way Rupert Sheldrake goes about it is the right way to do it.

But it has to be done extremely carefully, and single anecdotes tell you nothing.

You have written about alternative medicine and are highly skeptical of various healing practices, including energy healing and even acupuncture, which is now used quite widely in the West.

Yes, I know it's used. It's quite tricky because the placebo effect can really confuse these results very significantly. So if you believe the treatment is going to work, you've got a much higher chance that it's going to work. But there's just no evidence for the idea of energy fields, which acupuncturists use for deciding where to put the needles.

But there are thousands of years of experiential evidence going back to ancient China.

But nothing to do with energy. Energy is a well-defined concept. And I'm terribly sorry, no physiologist has ever detected any of these energy fields.

Maybe the scientific instruments that we have at our disposal just can't detect anything about qi.

Sorry. When they invented qi, how in the hell did they know what an energy field was? They hardly had a concept of energy. I mean, if you go back and look at their evidence, I'm afraid it was a nice set of ideas, but I'm terribly sorry, evidence matters. And that's what causal beliefs are really about. If we believe that something has a particular cause, we should be looking for the evidence.

Many people say they've been helped by acupuncture. Are you saying the placebo effect is the only explanation?

I have no idea why it works. But it's extremely unlikely that it's got anything to do with those energy fields. It could be largely due to the placebo effect. And homeopathy, where there are no molecules in the liquid that you take, is even more bizarre. And many people believe in homeopathic medicine.


If you look into your crystal ball, do you think we will always have religion? Or will reason win out at some point?

I believe we will always have religion. Churchgoing has declined in England, but the number of people who believe in God is still quite high. And in America, it's very high. And you just have to look at the Muslim world. It's very strong there. I'd be very surprised if it disappeared.

So the project of Richard Dawkins -- basically, to try to turn us all into atheists -- is just a pipe dream?

I believe it to be a pipe dream. The idea that you could persuade people not to be religious is in my view a hopeless aim. It comes from people's personal experience, rather than logical arguments.

But isn't this what you're doing in your book, arguing for the virtues of reason over religious belief?

Not at all. I'm trying to understand what determines religious belief. I'm not trying to convert people out of religion. Not for a moment. But if they then want to impose some of their religious beliefs onto other people -- for example, in relation to abortion or not using contraceptives -- then I ask them to look at the evidence. I ask them to be much more careful about their beliefs.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge, someone may have found some of your lost fortune in a sunken boat - get your claim in now!,2933,273512,00.html

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Also, read Anthony Gottlieb's review of Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins in next week's New Yorker.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 1:02 PM | Report abuse

I read and agreed with much in that article, 'Mudge, especially:
"I think philosophers are terribly clever but have absolutely nothing useful to say whatsoever. I avoid philosophy like mad."

PZ Miers over on Pharyngula liked the article too , except for the above quote.

Methinks I must investigate further.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

SCC PZ Myers

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

A study of philosophy helps you learn to think in a logical and internally-consistent manner. The point is not to agree with the philosophical conclusions, but to understand the structure of the arguments.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 1:27 PM | Report abuse

RD But philosophers make pronouncments (sometime astoudingly stupid) all the time.
If it is as you described, it sounds like the study of rhetoric.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I like that Wolpert isn't hostile or antagonistic to religion, as Harris, Dakwins & Hitchins are, and in fact appreciates some aspects of it. There may be times when I am forced to agree with HDH about some point or other, but I usually feel uncomfortable doing so, just because of their general hostility and intransigence. And I like what Wolpert says about the utter futility of the Dawkins approach.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I agree with you, 'Mudge. I cited the book review because it is yet another article about the recent subject-matter, not because I endorse any of those writers' views.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

rev. falwell was a fraud. good riddance.

i was educated by the capuchin friars. they taught me logic and it has served me well. they also taught me that it is ok for priests to beat up kids whose hair touched the back of their shirt collars, that it was ok for priests to beat up kids who arrived for after school detention without a pen, and that it was ok for priests to have affairs with the mothers of those same kids.

seems to me that as far as all this talk about god goes, the truth is that nobody KNOWS anything. but we want to believe in something--that much seems to be universal.

re the pope. he is another fraud. the catholic church in america has, over the last 50 years, perpetrated and covered up an organized crime ring of child molesters whose victims number into the thousands. more destructive of human beings than anything committed by the mafia over the same time period. and the repeat offenders were known to the rest of 'the good priests', who are complicit because they did NOTHING to stop it. and now the socalled church is using monies from collection baskets to pay lawyers to draft agreements in which victims agree to silence about the crimes in exchange for money. and it all stops at the pope's throne. frauds and hypocrites--all of them.

and as bad as all that is, falwell and his ilk are worse. if JC were to stop by for a visit today, my hunch is he would upset the applecart of the socalled moral majority in all its guises. then he would start hanging out with the AIDS people and the homeless and the mentally ill. but what do i really KNOW about that?

all of that said, i must note my admiration for the many regular contributors to this blog. you are an impressive bunch of thinkers and writers. i learn something every time i come here.

Posted by: butlerguy | May 18, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Verrry interesting Boodle. Thanks to all of all stripes and spots. Pullaway quotes: starving for fish and warm for the rest of his life. Shows you where my mind is on the frivolity scale.

Boko, RD didn't say that philosophers don't make pronouncements. He said that in studying philosophy the important thing is logical understanding of the structures. Most people won't be philosophers (ie folks with an original, if sometimes bad, idea) but the study of philosophy is a different thing altogether.

Sevenswans: Good for you! When I was 13, on a family vacation, my mother saw some people hang gliding. She ran to get us, incoherently shouting "Frogmen! Frogmen!"

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting that Mudge is was very interesting reading, without the hostility it is a great topic to talk and reflect about.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Yeah,RD. I think that courses like philosophy, public speaking, forsenics, seminar, etc., tend to develop critical thinking skill in a way that one is better equipped to analyze an arguement and evaluate the appropriateness of the respective positons.

Posted by: jack | May 18, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

And may I add that this Boodle has several things, like the philosophers observations or the relentless B-52 titles, which in combination with previous comments almost leads me to believe that RD and I are in fact the same person.

Except for the rabbits.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

My personal philosophy is: 'I think I am, therefore I shall have a beer.'

Posted by: omni | May 18, 2007 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of critters, this morning I awoke to find a new litter of groundhog pups foraging about. I was fairly sure there was only one female left after last year, so it must be a case of virgin birth.

I give up, and will just welcome my new Groundhog Overlords.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Error, the little one must be cute though.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I love Yoki's phrase:

"now incomprehensible romantic entanglement"

Perfect subject for a kit-and-boodle oneday, methinks.

fyi, look this weekend for an Outlook piece on cars and my long-awaited Post Mag piece on the presidential campaign. Maybe it'll be rainy and people will actually have time to wade through all those words.

Posted by: Achenbach | May 18, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

EF, maybe you can teach 'em to fetch your slippers. Or stuff campaign flyers into envelopes. Make 'em earn their keep.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I just hate it when you tease me like that, Joel.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm on the same page as Wolpert about religion, although I think there are physical or biological mechanisms that explain acupuncture.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Dawkins has never expected to change the hard core believer mind. He aims to get people to examine their beliefs critically and he wants to publicly express the non-believers views. The only real difference I see between him and Sagan is that Sagan understood the touchiness of North Americans when invited to question their sacred cows.
He gets my pennies.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

The 2 o'clock was mine.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

>Error, the little one must be cute though.

dmd, they are in fact EXCEEDINGLY cute.

I don't know if they'll go for back-room campaign work Mudge but they might be good for a photo op or two.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Oh my! I will now die happy.

The foregoing was neither sarcastic nor ironic, but a genuine expression of great pleasure at being called out by the Boss.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I loved Martooni's post. Absolutely bang-on.

Wolpert's concept is interesting, although I'm not convinced by what he thinks he causes it.

Also, he says of his friend's experiences- "They are not ghosts."

Well, the definition of ghosts is based on human experience of ghosts. Nobody, Ghostbusters withstanding, has captured a ghost and analyzed it.

People do see ghosts. It doesn't mean ghosts actually exist in the way we think of them as existing, but these experiences are real.

Maybe ghosts are generated by the brain, but ghosts are "real" in the sense they are in fact an experience, not an concept.

This is my conclusion after knowing too many people who have seen ghosts, day or night, in all types of consciousness, and all in situations in which they weren't exactly looking to be ghostbusters.

It creates strange riddles; if we experience, no matter how briefly, what is unreal, how do we do so? Is it because our brains want to know the causes and effects of things?

Doubtful. I'd sooner believe in mini-seizures, illusions, or even real stimuli provoking those experiences, than the idea that our brains are restless rationalists looking for patterns in the wind.

I will also say that our conscious selves are the tip of the iceberg; that much of our thoughts are submerged, not just in dreams, but in daily functioning.

When's the last time anybody consciously thought about how to digest their meals? Breathing? Mounting immune responses? Controlling the hundreds of muscles in the body individually? Tracking how the senses work exactly? Growing our hair and fingernails? Deciding how to feel from moment to moment?

All of that occurs automatically, with limited conscous effort, yet much of that provides us with our daily physical experience of being.

Even our emotional selves, normally felt but not heard, may only be able to hijack our consciousness through brief images, as may happen in obsessive-compulsive disorders.

I think mystery can't be removed with reason alone, because we live with it daily in our own beings, and nightly in our dreams. We're a mystery to our conscious selves, even though we're supposed to be captain of our own souls and masters of our fates.

So, thinking of the universe as being "real" in the same way we are, always influenced by a greater reality that shepherds and fosters this "reality" isn't too hard for us to believe, whether true or not-- it makes sense on a physical level.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 18, 2007 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm having a great day. I read Wilbrod's 13th paragraph as "limited couscous effort" and wondered how that could be achieved.

Sorry. I'll go back to work now.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Yoki I am all distracted by the curiosity over the lost romance and the beauty of the area you described. Details girl!

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

>... even though we're supposed to be captain of our own souls and masters of our fates.

At least, Wilbrod, I am master of my domain.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Baby groundhogs are adorable dmd. The cat brings one home once in a while. We're just about due to see some. This is a small cat. She can only take them in the first couple of weeks they're out of the groundhogs' underground apartment complex/shopping centre/bunker they have established on the corner of my lot.
This morning I saw two groups of three rabitts chasing each other during my 500m walk to the bus. Romance was definitely in the air.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 18, 2007 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I swear, the word oddities here that are somehow possibly true delight!

CeePeeBoy has often produced "limited couscous effort," as in not simmered long enough or even when seared into the pan due to inattention.

Recall, you are the Contessa of Alberta, Frosti is Gertrude Jekyll-North, and now Error Flynn is inducted in the the Royal Order of the WoodChucks.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 2:17 PM | Report abuse

LTL-CA-- correct!

Acupuncture works through opiate channels-- they did an experiment with opiate blockers and acupuncture failed to give relief. Also, animals benefit from acupuncture.

How it works, we don't know exactly, but then we don't know how pain channels work yet. We know some pain channels are responsive to heat, some to cold. Cold pain channels are sensitive to menthol (in your mouthwash-- which is why mouthwash feels cold), and hot pain channels are sensitive to capascin-- chili peppers.

The heat pain channels are like large serrated proteins creating a sine wave in the cell surface. It's possible that the cell membrane swelling or shrinking would stretch to activate those pain channels, as well as other substances wedging between the waves. It'd be interesting to see how cold pain channels are configured.

I have no idea how opiate channels work, other than they have opiates binding to them. Maybe the simple puncturing of the skin increases opiate activity. But I suspect once we figure them out, we'll be 50% of the way to the answer.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 18, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone here play or exist on Second Life, the internet alternative reality "sea?"

I may be asked to pilot a course in this venue.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

>now Error Flynn is inducted in the the Royal Order of the WoodChucks

I am deeply honored.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Mudge (and S'nuke)-- if ever you are not master of your domain, you might like this poem about the Working dog.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | May 18, 2007 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"...groundhog overlords..." All I can think of is Caddyshack. And the only time I used a 30-06 rifle with a scope. I went to a plowed field with my neighbor Steve, who happened to be a Viet Nam vet. Steve's job during the war was to fly to the front lines in a chopper,a Huey, I assume, and retrieve the weapons that had been damaged or rendered inoperable, repair them, and fly them back to the front liners. He brought bipod back with him, upon which we set the muzzle of the rifle. We were ostensibly off to shoot some sort of medium sized rodent: woodchuck, groundhog, something like that. I couldn't find anything but dirt in the sightsI don't shoot guns and had never shot a rifle. It wasn't braced properly against my shoulder and knocked my slight frame in to the beginning of the following week. Steve was polite and showed me proper technique, but I'm sure he was laughing on the inside.

Posted by: jack | May 18, 2007 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I wrote rabitts. I' usually bad but this was special bad.
Rabbits rabid for love.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 18, 2007 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I suppose I have the layman's view of philospohy stuck around the 19th century when they thought they had something important to say. And then one got bored, wandered outside and began to take notice of his surroundings instead of arguing (very cleverly and logically) about whether it existed at all.

So modern philospohy is like a course in critical thinking or rhetoric.
So Wolpert was right.
Thanks gang.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 2:32 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Conscious effort, but heck, it's better the other way.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 18, 2007 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Boko -- am trying to understand your stance here on philosophy. You seem to say it is only critical thinking and/or rhetoric. Hey, those two categories are pretty darn useful.

And, Wolpert is indebted to these subjects to 1) think about all these and 2) tell us what he thinks.

(Pardon me a bit, here. I am a Jesuit-trained philosophy major who did time in the biology salt mines, signed up for a stint in enviro-land, and now teach. What? Rhetoric to scientists and engineers.)

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 2:37 PM | Report abuse

I've never been a girl to kiss and tell, dmd. All I will say is that the relationship was bizarrely unsuitable, for both him and me, on every level imaginable and should never have been initiated. On the upside, it did not generate enough heat to burn. We very happily parted and very happily cried no tears, either of us. I can only put it down moon-beams, or something.

The beauty of the area is easy. Take a drive north from Kingston some day; Elgin, Perth, etc. There used to be a terrific Hungarian restaurant in Perth (this was 30 years ago, of course) and the little park in the centre of town is a treasure. Elgin has nothing so distinctive, but is a perfectly functioning well-established country town. The fights in the parking lot of the Elgin Hotel on Saturday nights after the band plays the last set are spectacular. Really fun. The Christmas lights in the trailer park mark the festive season, and the farm-land around the area is really lovely. It also has those perfect RR roads just made for driving way too fast in the pick-up.

I never regret my misspent youth.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

And, Boko, guess who is first among equals in rhetoric? Aristotle, the first scientist! Imagine that. Very cool. Very tin-foil-ey in a classical sort of way.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

My second-year Esthetics professor used to define the branches of philsophy as follows:

Metaphysics: what is really really real?

Epistemology: what can we really know about what is really really real?

Logic: what can we really think about what we really know about what is really really real?

Ontology: what can we really say about about what we really think about what we really know about what is really really real?

Ethics: what can we really learn from what we can really say about what we can really think about what we really know is really really real?

Politics: what can we really enforce about what we've really learned...

Esthetics: what if we are wrong?

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Groundhog pups are incredibly, adorably cuuuuute, indeed. EF, I am deeply envious, all I have is a lonesome bachelor under the shed. Although I think he's adorable as well, especially the way he trundles off on his business, fat waves rolling over the ground. His daylight eyesight is almost as bad as mine, so we tend to meet each other face-to-face here and there when I'm gardening. I always say, "Ooops! Hi there!" - but he always freezes, squints in horror, then turns and trundles away at (I think) top speed.

Just like the neighbors do. . .

Posted by: sevenswans | May 18, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm not denigrating them as tools. I love a good syllogism as well as the next guy.
I think Wolpert is referencing the influence of Lacan, Foucoult, Derrida and the post-modern crowd on science, the humanities and academia in general.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 2:54 PM | Report abuse

>I always say, "Ooops! Hi there!" - but he always freezes, squints in horror, then turns and trundles away at (I think) top speed.

Yeah, cute as all get out but not particularly good conversationalists.

Good luck with the hang gliding. A swan under a 15 ft. wing would be a sight indeed.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 2:59 PM | Report abuse

CP, I learned a long time ago to never mess with you Jesuit-trained folks.

Probably the best course I ever had in college was "Argumentation," which included rhetoric, logic, critical thinking, fallacies, etc.

(Of course, that was so long ago we all sat around at the graduation shindig and watched our teacher, old Soc as we called him, drink a cup of hemlock. Dude was literally wasted.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

>>Pardon me a bit, here. I am a Jesuit-trained philosophy major who did time in the biology salt mines.

That's scarey on so many levels and I don't think I'll be able to hide behind Yoki.
Thank goodness you're female or they would have had you forever. *shiver*

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Boko, I understand more.

We can still be friends but let me say here that I am so not po-mo.

Po-mo is the derisive pet name some of us for that fashion in academia.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm really enjoying all the discussions on religion and philosophy. I just can't contribute anyhting of any import.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey, nobody's taking me up on "my nose is your nose" offer? Pfft.

We had a nice middle-aged visitor this morning-- a small, chubby lab called Annie who was regrowing hair from surgery and didn't want to play as much as I wanted.

She guzzled from my water bowl and tried to enter the house a few times.

The gnome checked her tag and we took her a few blocks to her home where she apparently had broken out of her own house through an unlocked screen door she couldn't then reopen from the outside.

So she got help to get back to her air conditioning, food and water.

We're phoning her owners when they return from work so they know all about Annie's little adventure with the unlocked screen door and attempted burglary of others' houses.

Posted by: Wilbrodog | May 18, 2007 3:06 PM | Report abuse

When has that stopped me, dr?

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Jessuits? Well that explains a lot. For those who thing the Roman Catholic Church is one of those monolithic entities you've heard tell of, think again. To get the feel for the differences, I offer you the following. Then I am going to head home early in honor of Victoria Day.

A Franciscan, and Dominican, and a Jesuit were out playing golf one day. They were moving along the course quite well, until they got stuck behind a group of golfers who were taking quite a long time and weren't letting anyone else play through. Feeling a little frustrated, the three went up to the head of the group and asked what was going on. He told the three priests that they were part of a special program that allowed the blind to play golf. Each blind person was paired off with a sighted player who would help him line up the shot and give him advice on what else to do.

The Franciscan was deeply edified by this display of generosity. He apologized for being so pushy, and announced that he was so impressed by this example of service that he would incorporate it into his own prayer and service to the poor. The Dominican, too, was touched by their example, and declared that he would use this display of service in his preaching, and help others to work with those in need around them.

The Jesuit, finally, was deeply moved by their ministry. He took the fellow aside and encouraged him to continue with his work. However, he had to add one qualification: "Don't you think it would be a lot easier for everyone if they played at night?"

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, been through Perth many times to and from University to home, the whole area is nice, my favorite town was Tweed, if I ever pictured myself in a small town that would be the one. My grandfather and grandmothers family are all from that area, so even before University I was quite familiar with it.

Sevenswans I forgot to mention that I am so impressed with you desire to hang glide, you chose your handle well, I now have an incredibly cute picture of a graceful swan and a groundhog exchanging a polite but shy hello.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 3:13 PM | Report abuse

On hang-gliding, I'm counting on the new equipment and designs to help even a klutz like me get fairly decent at it quickly, enough to take 30-60 minute flights, anyway. I'm staying away from the all-day extreme-sports crowd. Used beginner rigs are cheap, lots of areas where I live where it can be done - I'm ready to go do it now-now-now! - but it'll be a month or so. Still, even thinking about flying makes me smile, and I like having a life goal of getting up in the air. When I was a kid, I really thought I could fly. I just needed to figure out how to jump up just right. Like Superman. But mean ol' gravity kept interfering.

I did think of taking a balloon ride, just for a quick-fix, but (1) they're *noisy* and (2) with my luck, I'd end up in Kansas.

Posted by: sevenswans | May 18, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of po mo, where is that girl? Po girlk been workin' so hard at her new job, mo don't have time to blog no mo.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 3:20 PM | Report abuse

What dr said.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 3:26 PM | Report abuse

What Yoki said.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

All this talk of hang gliding has given me a tune cootie: the theme from High Anxiety.

The boodle has been the best education I've ever received in the art of a well-crafted argument. Thank you all. Now if I could only learn to write one, instead of just appreciate it. Which is why I generally sit in the back of the class, throwing spitballs.

Posted by: Raysmom | May 18, 2007 3:38 PM | Report abuse

My groundhogs squeal and stink-up the place when I accidently or voluntarily corner one. They are surprisingly fast when a large dog breaths on their rear end.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | May 18, 2007 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Some entertaining stuff for the boodle's physicists:

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 3:41 PM | Report abuse

It is now 1:45 local Edmonton time, and there has not been a sound in the building for over an hour. I can't even hear myself breathe. I am now making socks in order to stay awake.

I'm sure I must have some work to do, but I keep dozing off.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Fights in the Elgin Hotel 30 years ago, Yoki?
Oh oh.
I still have family there but the Hotel is long gone.
Perth is still beautiful and thriving.

I was drinking in Mikes Place at Carleton University when a guy from the southern states mentioned he had come back from his publishers to OK a picture for the cover for his philosopy doctoral thesis. It was Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Children." He had never seen it before and had forgotten the name so I reminded him. I thought him quite the rube until someone informed me that publishing the thesis in this way was quite unusual and important.
Hey, I'm a HS chuck out.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

>I am Loved.
That sounds familiar. we share that love.

Posted by: buGlova | May 18, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, I already told that story.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Happy Friday. Take care. Off to squire CeePeeBoy and assorted mates to a gig. In a real club. Covering the Who tunes, and other classic rock anthems.

This makes me a roadie. Very cool. I shall be buff, eventually.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I love the philosophy definitions. They ring very true. I completed all the course requirements for my bachelor's in philosophy in just over a year. I don't recommend this - by graduation my mind was mush. Pure mush, I say. It's a good thing I was on my way to law school. It took me years to recover.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Anyway, the Russell in Smith's Falls hosted a better class of brawl.

Posted by: Boko9999 | May 18, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Boko! Now where I am going to go when I feel the need for fisticuffs?

dr, I kid you not, not a single telephone has rung on the whole 31st floor since I got here at 7:00 am. I am so not staying past 2:30.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, 1 year? Like, 2 semesters? Like, 8 months? Now I have a headache.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, 2:30 was the time we left, I am now happily at home. Only calls we got today were wrong numbers.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

You'd think I'd learn, eh? Just take the Friday before a long weekend off.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Good lord, a buff, Jesuit-trained, poetry-teachin' lady roadie. I think I'm in love.

(I hope there's no incomprehensible romantic entaglement in my future. I can't handle the stress.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 4:07 PM | Report abuse

I am fairly certain that I suffered from momentary insanity when I told the others to go early rather than doing so myself.

I have no guilt that I am not doing the work I am paid for, and am working on socks so it sure could be worse. The boss could be here, and then I would have to actually be working.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, it was 2 semesters, plus a couple of courses which I took in previous semesters as electives (while completing a different major). Nothing like taking intro to ethics and an advanced ethics seminar at the same time. I also acted in, assistant directed or crewed for four plays that year. Mush, I tell you.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, what were the four plays? I was in Alcestis, The Bald Soprano and understudied Long Day's Journey Into Night my freshman year.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 4:20 PM | Report abuse

I've got fireworks and beer but I still haven't anywhere to go. Better make some calls.
Have a Happy Victoria Day.

Victoria ER
The story of a poor crofters daughter...

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

34 minutes.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I don't remember them all. The last one was James Saunders's "Bodies", and I think one was "Major Barbara". I did theater all 5 years of college, and at this remove they tend to blur. It was a nice counterpoint to all that thinking.

Boko999, if you have beer and fireworks you are the party right there.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Have you guys every played with the "Electronic Edition" of the Washington Post?

Pretty cool.

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Get outta there Yoki. There is nothing like that call 5 minutes before you leave, that will take an hour to resolve.

boko, your mention of Goya, made me think of El Greco. I don't really know why these two artists are linked in my head, but they are. Years ago, I read one of those Condensed Book biographies of El Greco. There was a colour plate of the View of Toledo in it.

I was absolutely taken by that picutre. It was and is everything I see when a storm comes up. It's all the possibilities of light, even when it's is dark and menacing.

It's the perfect thing to think of when everyone around me is disscussing reflection, philiosophy and beliefs. Mine are right there in that painting.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

8 minutes.

Anybody know if it's raining here in Arbusto Grande?

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 4:53 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 4:57 PM | Report abuse

YES! I'm outa heah. Everybody have a good weekend.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 5:04 PM | Report abuse

TBG, are you still at work? Any of you California people? Aloha?

I had calls. I don't know what people are thinking, but I had to do actual note taking and data mangling. Really, the things people come up just when I decide to work on my socks on a Friday afternoon on the long weekend. Hmphffffff.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 5:39 PM | Report abuse

You have my deepest sympathy, dr. But you are leaving at 4:00, aren't you?

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 5:43 PM | Report abuse

dr, you're not alone in the odd pairing of Goya and El Greco. Both painted uniquely and lived and died in Spain. El Greco apparently had astigmatism.

Both had rather bold use of color, made use of distortions and added some philosphical contexts to their art.

Goya, was very classical, but as he became deaf, he changed to a more symbolic and visual mode of painting, rather than realism. It's very fascinating to see the transformation after he went deaf.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 18, 2007 5:47 PM | Report abuse

All day that is what I was planning, Yoki, but here I am clearing things away, and NOW people are calling. They seem to be expecting me to work. Seriously in the last 15 minutes 3 calls now. These people are nuts, and I think I really should have left as you did at 2:30.

The problem is that none of these callers have anything to do with the Oil patch. All the oil patch peop

sheesh, another phone call. As I was saying, all the oil people quit at 3 on a normal Friday, but,

OK this really has to stop. Another call. Don't these people know that I have now had more calls than the whole building had all day? Don't they know I was going home? Oh the humanity.

My internal boss says wait till you have 10 minutes with no calls, and then leave, and be darned. The moment I leave, is when the boss will decide to call and check his messages.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

It's only 3.10 here. If I went home, I'd have to stop boodling for 30-60 minutes!

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 6:11 PM | Report abuse

It's possible that I put the two together because of a program I saw some time ago. Life of a Masterpeice or something like that. The show disscussed this painting of Goya,

You are probably right about Spain. They are certainly the most famous of the early Spanish painters.

You can see that same thing in the work of a lot of painters, wilbrod, certainly VanGogh is one. El Greco, be it asitgmatism, or just his soul coming out in his painting, has a strikingly modern cast and since I am not all that fond of modern art, I am surprised at how he speaks to me. His way of dealing with light is the what draws me in.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 6:18 PM | Report abuse

It feels like there is a desire to picture people that believe in God as weak and needy. Simple, in fact. Not rational being, but of no mind. Yet one gets the sense that those that don't believe need an expert or thinker to sanction and prove that they have a basis for their unbelief. I suppose this is part of the critical thinking that we talk so much about here. Yet at some point one has to realize that our thinking, man's thinking will only take him so far, and where that ends does not necessarily mean that is the end. It is as if there is this little bit of nagging, that there just might be something there.

There was some philosopher(sp) that had this theory, and I can't remember it correctly to save my life, but it had something to do with how can one talk about there is no God, if there is no God? RD, maybe you can help me with this one. I think he used a word that implied God without calling God, God. This was so long ago that I read this, I can understand if you don't know what I'm talking about, I don't.

Have a great weekend, folks. Enjoy your time off.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 18, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I'll say it again:

Every day is Cassandra Appreciation Day.

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 6:38 PM | Report abuse

I think you can work backwards to come up with a definition of God -- what are all the things that can't be explained but one feels a need to have an explanation for, and then what powers are required to be responsible for all those things? That's of course not the case for one who is sent to church at a young age and encounters a pre-existing complete system, which includes not only the answers but also the set of questions deemed to be most important.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, that is why I liked Martooni's earlier post about the need people have for something outside them, whether it is filled by God, religion, science, or many plastic action figures. It isn't that people are weak and needy, it is that for most people just ourselves are not enough.

I was simplifying the civil rights struggle a little bit for the Boy. Just assembling and marching was not necessarily against the law, although probably lots of those cities either had, or hastily enacted, ordinances requiring a city permit to march (which they then wouldn't give out). Of course the segregated facilities, etc., were all encoded in law and that was what I was really referring to. I just wanted him to get a feel for the imbalance of power that existed.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 6:40 PM | Report abuse

In other words, I'd like to see what a total hermit who had never heard of organized religion would have to say about this. I think the views of churchgoers are strongly colored by what they have learned rather than always reflecting a basic instinct.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Error, I'm blushing. And how does one tell when a person my deep color is blushing? By a big old smile.

Posted by: Cassandra S | May 18, 2007 6:49 PM | Report abuse

LTL-CA, I may have raised one of those hermits. My daughter recently, at age 13, had to do a paper and take a side on an issue of her choosing. She decided to discuss whether or not Creation should be taught in public school.

Turns out, she didn't know the story of Creation; she had to look it up. And she told me it took an hour for her to figure out what Genesis is. Thank goodness for Wikipedia.

Her conclusion? No teaching Creation in science class, but there should be a class in school that teaches about all religions, where you could learn about all of them, "but not have to believe in them," as she said.

She's got a yearning to learn about it now. I think that will set her on the path to her own discovery; I look forward to seeing where it leads her and hope I will support her wherever she ends up.

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Ok, 10 minutes, no phones, I am so outta here.

Cassandra, "where that ends does not necessarily mean that is the end" It occurs to me that this is exactly what I see in the light of the paintings I love, and the stormy sky, and those occasions when the sun shines below the clouds as it sets and the light is liquid gold. It doesn't end, it just changes and becomes more. Whatever else these things are to me, it is a very spriitual experience. It leaves me believing the hand of God has touched them, even though my belief in religion is not at all strong.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 6:53 PM | Report abuse

I guess I should add that because she hadn't been taught one particular story of Creation, my daughter came to the conclusion that you can't teach any of them in any class that presented the story as fact.

She learned that there are too many versions from too many religions or belief systems to decide which one should be "the truth."

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I think CP is the Philosopher Queen around here. I'm just an amateur. Still, from what I have read I think the concept you are expressing is from St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109).

His argument was based on the premise from Plato that there must exist an idealized counterpart to everything we think of. That if we, as humans, think of a ball, this implies that there must exist somewhere (the exact "where" is a bit fuzzy) an idealized perfect "ball," otherwise we wouldn't even be able to conceive of the notion to begin with.

Anselm brilliantly realized that if one accepts Plato's premise, then the fact that we are able to conceive of a God means that there must exist an idealized perfect God out there somewhere.

The argument against Anselm is that he is taking Plato's premise further than it was supposed to go. The counter-example is that just because I can comprehend an island of solid gold, doesn't mean it exists.

The counter-counter argument is that this is a false counter-example because a gold island is not a pure idealized concept, but is instead made up of other concepts such as "gold" and "island."

The counter-counter-counter argument... well you get the idea.

This is a great example of how a philosopher takes a premise and builds on it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Oh gosh.. one more thing: I think because this journey of discovery my daughter is taking to learn about religion is intellect-based rather than emotion-based I'll be more likely to understand where she lands.

Does that make sense? She wants to know because she wants to know--not because she needs to fill an emotional void right now.

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 6:57 PM | Report abuse

RD... if you and your son are looking for some cheap entertainment tonight, Robinson is hosting the final TheatreSports competition of the year tonight at 7:30.

Improv comedy competition among several area high schools. My son happens to be the captain of his team, but who's bragging?

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 7:00 PM | Report abuse

TBG - That sounds fun. And good luck to your team!

I just asked my son, but, alas, he has committed himself to watching the Nats. He is convinced that their recent success is due entirely to his mental exertions.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 7:09 PM | Report abuse

RD, clearly you are raising your son right. Just reassure him that any failures will be entirely due to the team itself. Fans are blameless.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ivansmom! - yep when they lose it's their own fault. When they win, however, it's because of fan loyalty.

Look, I don't make the rules.

Also, as a fellow reader of "Artistotle's Children" I hope you don't think I botched St Anselm too badly. I would hate to encounter an angry mob of Ontological Theologians in a dark alley.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 7:31 PM | Report abuse

TBG, Genesis? As in Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford?

Posted by: dbG | May 18, 2007 7:35 PM | Report abuse

No, RD, your take sounded right to me. Talk about butchering -- I had to give a mini-review of it and recommend it as part of a book panel recently. I keep telling myself, NEVER talk off the top of my head. I actually did a little thinking in advance just to keep it coherent, and I hope I caught the flavor and general import, but who knows. Fortunately none of the Ontological Theologians were present and two or three people may actually read it. We could start a cult.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I've always wanted to be in a cult. Just as long as no ritualized piercings are involved.

dbg - suddenly that whole Genesis Reunion takes on a much deeper metaphysical meaning.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 7:45 PM | Report abuse

No piercings, no tattoos. Maybe a ritualized greeting - gently raised eyebrows? Grover waving?
Tin foil hats? Oh no, that's the Achencultmillinery.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

There are surely forces out there that we cannot understand. Because of late day phone calls, I had the extweme pweasure of wistening to " Be vewy quiet. I'm hunting wabbits". Its not often they do opera at all, but Elmer and Bugs was a perfect end to an odd sort of day.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Sort of like bikers. Have you ever noticed how when two people on large motorcycles pass each other in opposite directions, they do a ritualized downward point with thumb and index finger extended and the rest curled against the palm? I just love it. 'Course, a couple three of you have done it, not just observed it.

A ritualized greeting is a fine bonding agent. I like to jump up and down, flapping my hands and squealing. It is sort of a girl-thing.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

no, it should be a bow, purple, IIRC, worn on the shoulder.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

>Fortunately none of the Ontological Theologians were present and two or three people may actually read it. We could start a cult.

"And if we had three, can you imagine three people to walk in and sing a chorus of Alice's Restaurant and walk out we'd have a movement!"

Posted by: Error Flynn | May 18, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

Well I am going to sign off for the day. I am going into the yellow study and my nose is not coming out of there till it quits being rainy and cold, or I have to do the dishes. It's girl movie night. Pride and Prejudice here I come.

Posted by: dr | May 18, 2007 8:13 PM | Report abuse

How many here profess a faith different from their parents? If its more than 10% of the regular boodlers, I'd be surprised. Does anyone honestly believe if a reasonable adult, who had not been indoctrinated with a religion went out in the world armed with the scientific method she would come up with virgin births, multiplying loaves and fishes and the trinity?. I'll give you the "Sermon on the Mount" just 'cause it makes me warm and fuzzy.
I think someone was describing the god of the gaps earlier. ie. Whatever we can't explain, god did it. He's running out of real estate.
I kinda resent atheists being accused of having to have an expert explain things to them. By a Christian? Come on. Most of the ones I know came to the conclusion they were being sold a bill of goods all by their lonesome.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 8:14 PM | Report abuse

TBG said... "She wants to know because she wants to know--not because she needs to fill an emotional void right now."

That's because she's gettin' all the unconditional lovin' she needs from you. :-)

Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Hi Martooni! Let me just say how much I've enjoyed your recent clearheaded comments and observations. Not that you weren't clearheaded before, you understand, but that you seem to be thinking of a lot of things in new ways, or seeing with new eyes, or something. Anyhoo.

Also, keep those archived poems coming until your muse kicks in again.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 8:23 PM | Report abuse

dr, the BBC Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth? All 19 hours (or whatever) of it? Or the 2005 version? Fantastic interiors in that one with Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen? Though I think it sort of funny that KK played Lizzy and not Emma.

Boko, I profess no faith at all, which is entirely, entirely different than what my parents professed, profess and taught me and my brothers.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 8:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh Boy. Error and the Toonster.
I left it to late to connect with any of my friends this evening so I decided to cut the grass. I was half finished the front yard when the guys who bought the 200 ac next door for hunting drove up with a couple of boxes of clay pigeons. I grabbed my Dad's old Stevens 12 gauge and went back with them. I don't think its been fired in 15 years and boy do I know why. It kicks like a mule. 6 shots (3 hits,sigh) and I'm crippled.
My question is this. Is bruising treated with heat of cold compresses first.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Boko, for your poll, I'm different from my parents.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 8:41 PM | Report abuse

I should should have been clearer. How many folk examine what they've been taught, reject it, then pick up another faith because it makes more sense. I'm going excllude those who do for marrige too. I'm sure its very rare. Most of us accept the religion we're exposed to as children.
That's why the Jesuit's Boast of giving them a child and they'll have them forever is both lame and despicable. Children are born credulous it's not hard to get them to believe anything. You probably have had to deal with the consequences of the Lord's Army in Uganda.

Posted by: Boko99 | May 18, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse

Just cold, and a bit of compression, Boko. Cold followed by heat is for pulled muscles. Put heat on a bruise, and pretty soon you will look like a zombie. A rotted, zombie space monkey. Or something.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it was a bad idea to poll a bunch of independant thinkers.
A girlfriends father rejected the Judaism of his youth, raised his kids as atheists, got them through university and then joined the catholic churh. Oops sorry kids. He was a professor at NYU.
So it does happen, my point is that it is very unusual.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Boko - I struggled with the faith of my parents from 16 to 32. Then I took a step back and switched to one that seemed to work better, but it didn't take either. For me to maintain religious faith required a complex cognitive scaffolding of reasoning that I simply could no longer maintain. It was too exhausting. Rather than provide me with succor, the effort was draining the life from me. And I don't think that is the way it is supposed to work. Perhaps religious faith is a genetic trait. Perhaps it is a gift from God. But for whatever reason I couldn't keep it.

God knows I tried.

Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 8:59 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge and Yoki. So you went from believing in one religion and accepted another?
Why do I think I know the answer.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Much less rare than you want to believe, I think.

And you know what I'm finding? Much as I like all the Boodlers, and I do, with very few exceptions, I am finding this long drawn-out discussion of faith really useless (but not boring or unworthy).

The regulars already know the positions of all the other regulars. I am entirely without any religious faith/feeling/need whatever. Even though I am round, I am certain that natural principles explain everything, even if human-kind and I in particular don't understand it all yet and may never.

Boko999 seems to me to be aggressively, even angrily, atheistic (and forgive, 999, if I am wrong about that).

Cassandra, CP, Tangent, dmd, dbG, Wilbrod, Annie (hi Annie!) and many more have unwavering Christian faith.

There may be faithful Muslims or Buddhists or Shinto-practitioners who lurk...

I welcome everyone expressing and exploring (and sometimes growing their own understanding by articulating) their faith/non-faith positions, because it helps us know each other better.

But to me it is ultimately irrelevant, because we already know where the others fall on the spectrum, and we aren't going to change each other's minds. The division is too great to bridge. You got it or you don't.

That is why we were always enjoined not to talk religion at dinner.

We were also instructed not to talk politics, but I let that one fall by the wayside.

And as a skeptic, I must admit I might be wrong about all this.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 9:02 PM | Report abuse

I think Wolpert comes across as a little narrow-minded in his views on telepathy, ghosts, accupuncture, etc. He doesn't seem inclined to even consider Rupert Sheldrake's evidence as presented by the interviewer, because it doesn't fit within his worldview. (Sometimes scientists can be just as dogmatic as religious fundamentalists.) He says, "Telepathy goes against everything we know about neurophysiology and physics. If telepathy exists, it would be a miracle. . . . . You also have to transmit that message over distances into somebody else's mind. That's just nonsense."

Well, it might be nonsense if you *do* in fact have to transmit the messages over distances into someone else's mind. But what if that's a naive picture of how it works, built on the assumption that our minds are "local," individual entities? Many scientists are beginning to accept the possibility that our minds are in fact a *non-local* phenomenon. Some are even considering the possibility that, at some level, our minds are all connected. Within that framework, telepathy doesn't sound quite so nonsensical. But Wolpert is bound by a certain set of assumptions. (See, that's where philosophy is valuable -- it encourages people to question the many assumptions they make about the world, not all of which are necessarily true.)


"Look around you now. Are the images of what you see inside your brain? Or are they outside you -- just where they seem to be?

"I suggest that your mind reaches out beyond your brain and into the world around you. Vision involves a two-way process, an inward movement of light and an outward projection of images. By contrast, according to the conventional theory there is only a one-way process: light moves in, but nothing is projected out . . .

". . . For all its physiological sophistication, the standard theory has no explanation for your most immediate and direct experience. All your experience is supposed to be inside your brain, not where it seems to be.

"The basis idea I am proposing is so simple that it is hard to grasp. Your image of this book is just where it seems to be, in front of your eyes. It is not inside your brain. Your mind is projecting it outwards to where it seems to be . . .

". . . Our minds connect us to the world around us, just as they seem to do. This connection, through our sense organs, links us directly to what we perceive. What you see is an image in your mind. But it is not inside your brain. Your brain is within the confines of your cranium. Your mind is extended in space, and stretches out into the world around you. It reaches out to touch what you see. If you look at a mountain ten miles away, your mind is stretching out ten miles. If you look at a distant star, your mind is extending over literally astronomical distances."

-- from "The Sense of Being Stared At (And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind)," by Rupert Sheldrake


And for Boko's poll, no, I definitely don't hold the same religious beliefs as my Catholic parents. I don't tell them much about what I believe, because it'd probably upset them. In fact, they'd probably ground me.

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 9:10 PM | Report abuse

boko... I don't think anyone here is bashing atheists, so why the attitude? Why such a condescending tone? You're beginning to sound as shrill and defensive as Hitchens.

For the record, my parents were Roman Catholic and raised me as such but for many reasons I went my own way as an adult. I am not an adherent of any particular religion (see my post above), though I do believe in a Creator and lean toward Buddhist teachings and practices.

Believing in a Higher Power does not make one an idiot. Carrying on like you are somehow mentally and/or emotionally superior than those who believe certainly does.

Posted by: martooni | May 18, 2007 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with your general theory, Boko. I think maybe 10% is a little low; maybe more toward 15, or 20, tops, But yes, I think you're right.

Here's something disgusting almost beyond measure. I'm watching "Best in Show" on TV, and the &%$#@&%$# cable station, whoever it is, "E" channel, I think, is running a "crawl" under the movie with various and sundry inane celebrity news and gossip.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 9:12 PM | Report abuse

Sure I'm ticked off at times. I think others have been annoyed by the inference that because we don't have faith we aren't moral beings. I don't think you can deny that's a very common attitude in this culture. I've been dealing with it all my adult life and it gets a little tiresome. The rise of the religious right and their attacks on the secular sphere, science and education (and isn't that what inspired this boodle?) is an attack on something I hold very dear.
Plus I think Yoki and 'Mudge were being a little disengenuous with ol' Boko.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, how is it you are still able to be so articulate and sensible after years spent working among lawyers?

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 9:14 PM | Report abuse

I would be taken to church sometimes as a kid, and for a while to Sunday School at a Unitarian church, and wondered, How do all these people know the same stories, where did they learn this stuff that they can't possibly have any direct knowledge of? Dad would go along sometimes too, but he was just doing it as a favor to mom (or some presumed "community"?) and didn't want to be there. Now when I go, it's like being an anthropologist watching rites in deepest New Guinea. How do they all know to stand up together, and then all sit down? When, why and how did they all learn the words to that? Jewish ones are interesting, because the content stresses their life in the desert 2000 years ago esp the chief's private discussions with God, when their lives today are so very different.

I also wonder if different terms should be used for membership by belief like Christian, vs. membership by birth and practice like Jewish. We use the word "religion" for both, but in my hair-splitting software mind they're different. In SW terms, a cast operation, which may involve a complete retooling, is needed to move from a belief to a birth religion, but one can move between two similar belief-based ones (Methodist to Presbyterian?) by assigning a new value to churchMemberOf. (to oversimplify) This may seem trivial, but it seems to me that the "operations you can perform" on one's church membership reveal some principles. If this sounds like the way a Dawkins might approach it, well, that's how I think about it.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Boko I would think this is the one place where you would not have to worry about freely admitting to being an athiest and knowing the those here would not consider you amoral - that thought for me never entered my mind.

Save your battle for those that are really attacking "non-believers" or whomever their target of the day is.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

No no no, Boko. I went from being raised in a certain easy religion to rejecting absolutely and forever any religion at all, from the age of 9. I thought about it, and could not believe any of it. When I studied comparative religion for 8 years (as part of my exploration of philosophy) on an intellectual level in University, I could not believe any of them either.

Let me say again, and this is the last time I will, that I think (not believe) that natural phenomena and processes can explain everything, even if humans in general and I in particular, because I have little physics and less science, do not and will not have the intelligence and technology to decode and understand it all. There is, in my cosmology, nothing supernatural.

Is that clear enough?

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, a scroll during Best in Show - the horror, love that movie.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 9:25 PM | Report abuse

From Salon, a relevant book review of Hitchens's "God Is Not Great"

Posted by: bill everything | May 18, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Boko999 said, "Plus I think Yoki and 'Mudge were being a little disengenuous with ol' Boko."

Absolutely and infuriatingly wrong. See above. I do not think or believe or feel that there is anything other than nature and natural processes in the world or the universe or any universe there ever could be or ever has been or ever will be, in perpetuity.

I'm done. I have now twice said what I have to say, as clearly and articulately as I know how (thanks Ivansmom, it is because I never wanted to be a lawyer [not that there is anything wrong with that] -- did you see the fabulous Weingarten update today?) and if you still *will not* hear what I have said, it is not because I am not saying it, but because you are not listening closely and being quietly receptive, Boko999.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 9:31 PM | Report abuse

You know, "supernatural" is a funny word. Things that we today term "supernatural" may one day be explained by science, just as some of our modern technologies, such as telephones, radios, TV, etc., would once have been considered "supernatural."

Perhaps everything is "natural," including ghosts, ESP, and even space aliens. It's just that there are things we know, and things we don't yet know.

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa. I left the boodle at 4:21 talking about beer and fireworks (saving them till sunday)and came back around 8ish and responded (nicely and politely) with my position to a later post. Show me the anger (I'm working on some now) and attitude. I'm keen to learn.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 9:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to go read a nice book about Shakespeare and go to bed.


Posted by: RD Padouk | May 18, 2007 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I was not impressed with the Kiera Knightley P&P at all. I'm not enjoying any movie that messes with the plot of an Austen novel! Jeez, Lady Catherine visiting Lizzy at night? No way...OTOH, I really liked Sense and Sensibility...

Boko, my parents changed churches when I was a second grader. My mother said that had they not done that, they would have lost me to faith. And that's true; I grew up in a congregation that values open thought and isn't fundamentalist.

I had the opportunity to experience other points of view (doesn't everybody, in a public college?). I weighed them, and happily went home.

I grant you all the evils that religions have wrought. Religions are human institutions, subject to all human frailties. As a Christian, I know how wrong I often am - in spite of my best efforts - how many times I f**k up and hurt people I love, as well as myself. I know my need for God and find peace and hope and love in faith, in the Christian faith. I have no idea why I am so fortunate to understand my need, but I'm grateful for it. If you don't need God, I say, best wishes to you. May you lead a life of happiness.

Faith of my fathers? I love my religious heritage. The first members of my father's family in this country emigrated from Dublin around 1735 because they had been disinherited for leaving the Catholic Church and becoming Baptists. My mother's family is Scotch-Irish, but her father thought there was some French in the background, given the spelling of the surname on the first member's tombstone. And yes, French Protestants emigrated to Northern Ireland after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and mixed with the Scots who were there. I've seen that tombstone in the first cemetary of the church he helped found around 1751. My parents are buried up the road about a hundred yards, in the third cemetary. And now my cousins, into the tenth generation, are members of that church. That rootedness, of family and faith, is an important part of my life.

Posted by: Slyness | May 18, 2007 9:39 PM | Report abuse

What Yoki said, except I didn't partake much in the easy religion, and didn't study comparative religion except where it appeared as part of something else in HS or uni.

Mom went to a Unitarian church. When dad died, she approached the minister for support, but he was busy running for mayor of LA, so she turned to a Catholic church where some of her friends attended, and got good support. Those Irishmen didn't spend all their time with the altarboys, and she stayed for 20 years until a few years ago, no longer up to the relatively short drive. She had a large support network of faculty wives, but felt the pull of a church. Is that an inbred characteristic, or something she acquired way back in small-town Minnesota? Now she's too old for me to find out much about that part of her life, unfortunately.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Yoki | I was perfectly aware you're an agnostic. When I asked how many people didn't follow their parents religion I meant those who had replaced it with another. In fact I clarified it in a later post. I thought you and 'Mudge understood that so I gently and jokingly chided you. Check the record, I believe it bears me out.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 18, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I think I see what happened here:

When Boko said, "'Mudge and Yoki. So you went from believing in one religion and accepted another," he was kidding -- talking tongue-in-cheek. (Right?) Hence the "Why do I think I know the answer." He *knew* it wasn't a case of one religion being replaced by another. But Yoki thought he really did think this was the case, hence the umbrage.

I was going to suggest that the misunderstanding was a case of a Canadian sense of humor gone awry/unappreciated, but then I remembered that Yoki is also Canadian, so now I'm really confused.

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 9:45 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

On a personal level, I am interested in all the Boodle stories of religious faith, non-religious faith, varying kinds and degrees of belief or nonbelief in a Supreme Being, and observations of the supernatural. I do think these things are fraught with opportunity for misinterpretation and misunderstanding of tone, if nothing else. And I agree that this is not the audience to think that someone with no religious belief is amoral or unethical. How very offensive. Immoral, maybe, on occasion, but then so are we all. Not at all the same thing.

RD, what is the book on Shakespeare? Do tell. Can there be a book on Shakespeare we don't already have? Oh, yes, of course there can, but not for long.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

That was an attempt at a Canadian joke. If it wasn't clearly a joke or even funny, then I may have succeeded.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Ooh a Friday Weingarten update, rather rare, no?

About the quote from the professor on the transfer of ownership of the orange, he obviously doesn't know his stuff because he forgot in the granting clause to include "enfeoff." That could bollox the whole transaction.

I think I will pursue the enfeoffment of another beverage while I consider the legal ramifications thereof.

Posted by: bill everything | May 18, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

Martooni, I liked your comment this morning. You said what I think but couldn't figure out how to say it coherently. And you reminded me of this from a U2 song (Mofo):
Lookin' for to save my, save my soul
Lookin' in the places where no flowers grow
Lookin' for to fill that God shaped hole

I was brought up a Presbyterian, but got interested in Catholicism when I was a teenager. I was intrigued by the rituals, the mystery (Mass was still in Latin), the taboos (no meat on Friday). But I didn't pursue it to the point of converting. I've always been more of an agnostic (or maybe an unknowing Buddhist), but I love the teachings of Jesus. It doesn't matter to me if he's really the son of God, or rose after death. I abhor the things that people do in the name of religion, but I think the real worth of religion is the comfort it gives to individuals and the community it creates.

And I agree with Yoki too - religion, or the lack thereof, is hard to talk about. We probably won't change anyone's mind here. But it's interesting to read people's ideas, and we've done pretty well with it (or you have, I stayed out of it for the most part).

dr, love the El Greco painting - the light is amazing. Oh, and I got a phone call at work just as I was packing up to leave...grrr...

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 9:50 PM | Report abuse

I got the joke, LTL-CA. Funny, eh?

(Wait -- does that mean it was a failure?)

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Time to box up some kids' books, or go to bed and read, whichever gravitational pull is stronger.

Vaya con queso, y'all, and fondue.

Posted by: Ivansmom | May 18, 2007 9:53 PM | Report abuse

LTL, this may prove your theory wrong but as a Canadian, I got the joke and laughed out loud.

Posted by: dmd | May 18, 2007 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Heady stuff in the boodle. Time to invoke Voltaire:

Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

Have a great weekend all.

Posted by: bill everything | May 18, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

Well, I didn't get it, till LTL explained it. I'm slow, sometimes.

And may I say that I can't stand Christopher Hitchens. His voice, accent, mannerisms, appearance annoy me - not to mention his takes on issues, which I disagree with. I rarely read anything he writes - thought GeneW did a great job ripping apart Hitchens' column on why women aren't funny. I'd love to lock him and Ann Coulter in a room together...(hope they'd tear each other to bits).

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 10:03 PM | Report abuse

One last defence:
I wrote
"I don't think you can deny that's a very common attitude in this culture."

I did not accuse any boodler of thinking atheists are immoral.

I'm gonna go listen to my John Lennon records

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Sure, Boko, YOU are moral & ethical--but I'm not so sure about those other dastardly untrustworthy slimeball atheists that will surely burn in hellfire forever.

I should note that some of my best friends are atheists. We get along just fine, even though I am aware that they are secretly in despair, not having anything to live for & all that.

Posted by: MedallionOfFerret | May 18, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I confirmed with my friend that she has knitted at baseball games with the Stitch and Pitch group. She's going to let me know when the next one is. Fun! Of course, I will have to break my vow never to set foot in the taxpayer funded stadium here - but it will be for a good reason, and surely the Mariners and politicians have gotten the message by now (yeah, right).

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 10:10 PM | Report abuse

I'll say it again: I love this place.

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Hitchens' job is selling magazine articles. (He also writes them, but his real job is to sell them.) Depending on the magazine, it may help to make the article relatively outrageous.

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 18, 2007 10:15 PM | Report abuse

As I was "heading out the door" saw Mostly's Hitchens/Coulter comment. We'd need Joel's astrophysicist to explain the vast amount of space (probably expressed in light years) needed to contain those two egos in any given space at any given time.


Posted by: bill everything | May 18, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

C. Park - A bright (slightly chip-on-her-shoulder-ish) young lady of my acquaintance has made it clear that she was a graduate of, and huge sports fan of, the University of Maryland. I once asked her if she was fairly familiar with the College Park area (I was trying to find out if she had any knowledge of the new location of the great little Burmese restaurant "Mandalay", which had previously been located a few blocks north of the campus), and she had great fun lecturing me about how she knew everything there was to know about College Park, and hinted that I was a bit of a fool for asking her the question.

When I pointed out that I personally had taken UMd courses in England (and was reasonably certain that the university has a number of other satellite facilities), and when she admitted that she had no particular knowledge of "Mandalay", I think we agreed to disagree about her knowledge of College Park and the University of Maryland.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Ummm... trivia quiz - I didn't leave that last post anonymous intentionally, but how many people already know who it was?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:28 PM | Report abuse

I think it was you, Bob S.

Am I right?

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

By the way, I'm well aware that the number of people who CARE who it was is vanishingly small!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I bet your son has a great sense of humor!

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 10:32 PM | Report abuse

Yup, you got it!

: )

(I've never claimed to be unpredictable)

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 10:33 PM | Report abuse

You know, Joel's first Outlook piece is on telescopes and cosmology, and his second is on cars.

You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say he wrote this stuff specifically for me.


Posted by: bc | May 18, 2007 10:38 PM | Report abuse

TBG, you're good! I can pick out certain boodlers fairly accurately, but that would have stumped me. But it's Fri night, and I'm tired.

Posted by: mostlylurking | May 18, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

You're actually in a little early tonight, aren't you Bob?

Hey.. there's a Burmese restaurant on Lee Highway, between Merrifield and Falls Church in the little shopping center (I think it's actually called MerriFalls Shopping Center!) next to the Jefferson District Park golf course. I believe the restaurant is called Myanmar.

Which, of course reminds me of a Seinfeld episode...

Kramer: What's wrong?
Elaine: Peterman ran off to Burma, and now he wants me to run the catalog.
Kramer: Where?
Jerry: Myanmar.
Kramer: The discount pharmacy?

Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 10:39 PM | Report abuse

So who is this?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:43 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: TBG | May 18, 2007 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Hi Bob S.

That fab restaurant moved to Silver Spring about a year ago. Mandalay started as a doughnut shop, expanding to Burmese for lunch, and later for dinner. I miss it.


Yoki -- useless maybe, if the goal is to build a team. But very pleasant to have these important topics air in a civil setting. Furthermore, I think we cheer each other on. We are all in the human race and can use the support.

Night all, and one last look at the peonies in the dark. White flowers at night are splendid.

Posted by: College Parkian | May 18, 2007 10:48 PM | Report abuse

bc might have asked, "So who am I?"

Posted by: Anonymous | May 18, 2007 10:49 PM | Report abuse

TBG - I think that I'd have picked bc also!

Actually, my late nights aren't usually Fridays. Almost every other night of the week!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse

To clarify slightly - It's not uncommon for me to make a first boodle appearance this early on a Friday.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 10:54 PM | Report abuse

CP - I knew most of that "Mandalay" info when I asked her the question. What I intended to find out was if she was well-acquainted enough with the place to tell me how to actually GET TO the new location. Obviously, the answer was in the negative.

I've found the joint since then! : )

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

CP, did I not say that? That is what I meant, anyway.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Fine boodling today, and me away from the computer. I have often wondered if we've done right by Frostdottir. We tried not to raise her as a sociological experiment but she joined our family at age 6 from a foster family where she'd been pretty well indoctrinated in one of the mega-church Christian Evangelical faiths. It was culture shock for all of us, but continuing to support her upbringing in this tradition was a bridge too far for this Heathen. She never seemed to miss going to church, or at least didn't ask to go, and was satisfied with praying on her own at bedtime. However, my own religious upbringing made me perfectly comfortable with sending her to an all girls Catholic school for a time. (I may have no faith, but by God I'm rejecting the right one.) Now at 17 she is in full questioning mode and chose as one of her first college level classes "Ethics." That's my girl.

G'night CP. We had a late evening thunderstorm here. Just a little moisture and everything green is glowing.

G'night all. I have a function tomorrow that requires baking of an offering. I will do oatmeal cake with a broiled coconut topping but to attempt it at this hour is folly.

Posted by: frostbitten | May 18, 2007 11:10 PM | Report abuse

Yoki - I don't know if I've ever really expressed how disappointed I was that I wasn't able to make it to your BPH visit, but I still have pangs. I hope that we get another chance!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Bob S, I will be back in Washington within living memory. All is well, and all is well, and all is very well.

Frostbitten, my Scottish relatives and ancestors call the oatmeal/coconut confection "butterscotch." Delicious!

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Not really, Boko, I was supposedly raised as a more or less "standard" Protestant, but I pretty much never believed in it from something close to Day One. When I was in elementary school, my brother and I were required to go to the local church's Sunday school, and I disliked it from the start, though not for very good reasons: I hated having to wear an over-starched white shirt with a too-tight collar and a necktie. I was bored stiff with the mindless stuff I was being taught. I even hated being required (by the Sunday school teacher) to memorize verses, and then having to recite them with the other kids at some regular service, where we were trotted out like Pekinese. (The fact that I always had a good memory was beside the point.) Later, when we moved to town (from a rural 'burb), I was required to go to the local Methodist church a few blocks away. I became an usher and collection plate-taker--though for the worst of reasons: so I could sit all the way in the back next to three friends of mine, and taking the collection was simply a break in the service, a chance to get up and move around, and when we were done we would go outside and give the money to one of the adults, etc. So I get no points their for my valiant service on behalf of Jesus. For about a year, I was also required to go to the Sunday night MYF thing for teens, which I also disliked. The only single good thing that every came out of it was they held a hayride, and I asked a girl I liked who was then "the girl next door," literally. She was a year ahead of me in school, and to this day I am amazed at my own bravery--for a 10th grade boy to ask an 11th grade girl out was nearly unheard of! (Perhaps, though it was the beginning of my fondness for and appreciation of older women.) At any rate, on the MYF hayride I leaned over and gave her a kiss, my all-time very first-ever kiss on a person of the opposte persuasion. It was actually fairly prim, and she handled it well, and said, "Thank you, that was very nice." Hilarity did NOT in fact ensue...but neither did anything else.

That pretty much sums up my entire experience with the Protestant denomination, Boko. I actually posses (if you hadn't guessed) a fair amount of residual angry toward that early Sunday school "training." I am still, 50 years later, very angry that I was taught crap and nonsense. I was taught that you are supposed to pray with your eyes closed. You were supposed to pray with your hands clasped palm-to-palm. For years and years, I kept waiting for "something" to happen, for the spirit or Jesus or whatever was supposed to happen, but nothing did. No uplift. No supposedly warm and fuzzy feeling. It was all empty. And then one day during some prayer or other, I opened my eyes when I wasn't supposed to, and was utterly shocked at what I saw. There were adults in church who didn't have their hands clasped. They were sitting in worshipful attitudes, meditating, as it were, and were clearly involved. But they didn't have their hands in the right position, and a few of the men had their eyes open.

You have no idea how earthshaking this was to me. I am completely serious about this, as serious as a heart attack. I expected a thunderbolt at any moment. I was furious that I had been so stupidly misled (not by my parents, who, hypocritically, never went to church themselves; they just made my and me go). Somewhere along the line I learned that, in fact, the sun really didn't stand still; it was a metaphor, a legend, whatever. Jonah really wasn't swallowed by a whale (and even then it wasn't even a damn whale, just a "big fish," whatever the hell that meant. That there probably really wasn't a flood, and if one thought about it, no single human being (or three or four of them) could build a wooden ship hundreds or thousands of feet long that could accommodate hundreds of thousands of animals for 40 days.

Over time, I began to learn the difference between legends, fables, parables, metaphors, etc., versus "real" historic or quasi-historic events. But I also harbored this intense anger that I had been fed crap on the pretense that I, like all my classmates, were "little kids" or something, and would be incaple of appreciating these higher distinctions. I was never told "Peter and the Wolf" was a "real" historic event; so why the hell should I have been taught that Noah built an ark, and it "really" happened? I was perfectly capable of understanding that when Roy Rogers shot somebody on television, he wans't really shooting anybody, and I understood I was watching a documentary of Western frontiersmanship.

So I pretty much necessarily rejected just about everything I was ever taught in church and Sunday school as a lot of bogus crap. When I was a kid, I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy for some period, and then gradually came to understand there was no Santa Claus, and I wasn't angry about that, because nobody ever told me, repeatedly, that "Santa Claus was real." Somewhere around the age of 6 or 7, I discovered the hall closet where my parents hid the Christmas presents, and that was OK. I understood intuitively the nature of that "deception" and (since I was clearly the benificiary, getting all those presents, who was I to complain?) and considred it more or less harmless and all in good fun.

But the lesson was quite clear to me: adults tell you a lot of real crap when you are little, and it is always church-related in some way. No school teacher ever knowingly and willfully told me pure unadulterated crap, but preachers, pastors, reverends, and Sunday school teachers did pretty much all the time. Worse, they were hypocritical about it: why could they pray with their eyes open and I couldn't? Why did I have to clasp my hands, while Mr. Marsh over there could fold his arms, bow his head, keep his eyes open, and scratch his ear? Why didn't God strike him dead? Why didn't the other adults do something about him?

So, yes, Boko, I was theoretically raised as a Christian, but I had a bad attitude pretty much right out of the gate.

I knew next to nothing about ANY of the other denominations. On paper, I was a church-going Methodist, and to this day I cannot tell you what Method I was allegedly practising. Something to do with John Wesley, whoever he was. What, I have no idea. I don't ever remember anybody in church ever explaining any of it. About 75% of the kids in our school system were Protestants, and about 25% were Catholics (at least as we perceived it; there was no "third" choice). In addition to us Methodists, there were Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Episcopalians and a few similar sects; it was my understanding these were all approximately the same thing. I had a crush on a girl who went to the Baptist church; she explained to me that Baptists didn't "allow" (note the verb) card-playing and dancing--though her parents overlooked both of those, and this girl danced at the sock hop and played pinocle with the rest of us at the community pool. Catholics were a little different than all the rest of us, and while they were perfectly nice people, you generally didn't want to date a Catholic girl because they were really uptight, if you know what I mean.

So there I was, an 11th grader, and that was the sum total of my knowledge of comparative American theologies. And that's utterly pathetic.

When I was a senior in high school, one of my best friends was a freshman who went to Dartmouth. He started going to a local Unitarian church, and we talked about that. I knew nothing of Unitarianism, of course, and started going (because my cool Dartmouth buddy said it was cool). And I learned about Unitarians and Emerson and all that stuff, and also that God didn't strike you dead with thunderbolts.

And then suddenly at that point in time the earth shook and the world changed, turned upside down, metaphorically speaking, almost literally overnight. JFK was assassinated. (I was student council president, and on our class trip to Washington a few months later I was delegated to lay a wreath on his grave at Arlington on behalf of our school.) The Civil Rights movement exploded. Suddenly we learned about Ghandi and passive resistance. And Vietnam exploded, and we also learned about non-passive resistance. Priests were demonstrating against the war. Churches had suddenly changed from oppressive prisons to sanctuaries where Civil Rights leaders organized, where anti-war protests were held, and where, in the south, a couple of glassbowls in the Ku Klux Klan blew up a church and killed four little girls. Many of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement were Protestant clergy, staring, of course, with King himself.

It was necessary, virtually overnight, to not only learn and absorb a great deal of new information about churches and religion and clergyman, it was also necessary to completely jettison an entire (you should pardon the phrase) "weltansauung, " a world view about religion and all things connected to it. If in 1961 I reflexively despised all preachers and pastors and church people as utter fools and hypocrits, by 1964 I held them up as fighters, thinkers, leaders, martyrs, visionaries. Heroes, Boko. They were heroes. I joined them, marched with them, worked in the ghetto in North Philly in the basement of a run-down Baptist Church tutoring black kids.

My Dartmouth friend got deeply involved in both the Civil Rights and also the anti-war movements. He went to Mississippi and did voter registration, and once met Stokely Carmichael. He also got involved in SDS in its earliest relatively benign phase, and I'm not quite sure how far he went with them afterward, or how deep. But he became pretty radical, though, I believe, remained non-violent. After he graduated from Dartmouth he was drafted, declared himself a conscientous objector, and did three years in Lewisbrug Federal Prison for it.

All through his sojourn through the civil rights and peace movements, he was my mentor, introducing me to books by the likes of Franz Fanon and Paul Goodman and dozens of others. One thing you gotta say about the Civil Rights and Anti-War movements of those days: they were hellishly bookish, and if you were going to keep up you had your reading cut out for you. The major radicals. The minor radicals. Thoreau. Ghandi. Malcolm X. Ramparts Magazine. All the anti-war literature, of which there was a ton. Socialist stuff. Communist stuff. Pacifism stuff. Activism stuff. The freakin' Port Huron Statement, fer crying out loud. Dylan. Protest songs. Civil Rights songs. Ethics. Teach-ins. I.F. Stone. Sy Hersh.

AND on top of that you had to go to college, carry a reasonable workload, and maybe hold down a fulltime or a parttime job. And try to get to a movie once in a while, drink a beer, find a girl, and try to get laid once in a while.

Never mind the politics and the background noise: just consider the sheer amount of pure high-speed learning and cultural adaption we all had to go through in such a small crunch of time. From 16- or 17-year-old acne-faced hayseed to 19- or 20-year-old frontline, hardcore college student/protestor/civil rights field worker. That's one helluva trip in a few short years, man. Millions of us took it.

I never went remotely as far down the road as my Dartmouth buddy, never got anywhere near that radical; I never left the outer reaches of the Democratic Party. In '64 I was a high school kid laying a wreath on JFK's grave; in '68 I was writing the obit editorial for Martin Luther King, police were were about to come on campus and tear-gas us, and in June '68 I was signed up to work for Bobby Kennedy, whom I would have followed into the gates of Hell. When he was shot it kind of broke me.

What has any of this to do with religion? Just about everything. Religion and religious ideas informed and permeated every level of what was going on. Of course, many times it wasn't called that; it might have been called philosophy, or ethics, or whatever. But it was about human behavior, and what was Right and what was Wrong, and how someone was supposed to behave in the face of various and sundry kinds of evil. Where you your brother's keeper? Even if your brother was a black sharecropper? Under what circumstances was it permissible to go drop napalm on an Asian village?

In this hothouse environment it was not possible to maintain any sort of naive, simple-minded view of religion. You could not keep up if you didn't know your Buber, your Bonhoeffer, your Paul Tillich, your Paul Goodman, your Fanon, your Berdechev. You could not look at a poor, black, country preacher as some sort of country bumpkin/uneducated Bible-thumping hick, because chances were excellent that naive, simple-minded country bumpkin hick preacher was leading a march in Selma and staring down the barrel of Bull Connor's shotguns and firehoses, and so you had to say to yourself, something's wrong with this picture, and you've got to re-examine the premise here, and it's that your preconceived notions about that hick backwoods preacher are just all wrong. You have to look at a William Sloan Coffin or the Berrigan brothers, or the Liberation clergy in Central America with new eyes.

So what you come out of it with is yu have to respect people like that. You don't have to agree with their particular set of theological beliefs, and it doesn't matter a tinker's damn whether those beliefs are "rational" or not. The question actually becomes irrelevant. You have to give them credit for being intelligent, and thoughtful, ethical, and worthy of serious consideration and respect, and it's not important if they think wine is sacred blood or not, or whether it's silly to think of crackers as somebody's body. That is to mistake the trees for the forest.

(And then the other thing is, it becomes pretty easy to tell the difference between the glassbowls like Falwell and Pat Robertson from the people you need to respect and take seriously, even though you might disagree with them over the petty stuff like rituals and dogma.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 11:29 PM | Report abuse

The WHITE ZONE is for loading and unloading only. If you gotta load or unload, go to the WHITE ZONE. You'll love it ...

Posted by: Central Scrutinizer: | May 18, 2007 11:32 PM | Report abuse

I just got around to reading the Salon review of Hitchens' book that bill everything linked to. I liked this bit:

"Although I [the reviewer, not Hitchens] am an unbeliever, this doesn't prevent me from recognizing that what led humans to create gods was not simply fear but a desire to harness and account for those sustaining moments when we receive our lives most abundantly. Iris Murdoch gives a far more persuasive and imaginatively generous account of religion when she writes, 'God does not and cannot exist. But what led us to conceive of him does exist and is constantly pictured. That is, it is real as an Idea, and also incarnate in knowledge and work and love.'"


Amen to that. I think the Does-God-Exist? debate too often gets simplified into belief in a traditional, human-like God on one hand versus belief in nothing on the other. But there are so many possibilities in between those two (very limiting) extremes. I think we've got a very long way to go before we can even begin to understand what's *really* going on.

Posted by: Dreamer | May 18, 2007 11:40 PM | Report abuse

You know for whom I have an unrequited passion? Curmudgeon.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Station Break--just checking in to say that the weather in the DC area was warm and humid when I arrived Monday and Tuesday pounding the pavement on Capitol Hill for my association ...ending at the Capitol Hill club for a party. But since then the weather has turned dreary and cold. I have, however, seen masses of cheery buttercups out here in the beautiful Maryland countryside of Comus / Sugarloaf Mountain where my son now lives. If you locals get the chance, try the Comus Inn for a wonderful dinner (we had a family reunion there)and sunset view of the mountain--actually a foothill in my mind, coming from the Rockies. I return to the west tomorrow afternoon after stopping at Arlington cemetary to see my mother's resting place. I guess I will always have two favorite places...the mid-Atlantic region and the Rockie Mountains Front Range. I forgot how huge the trees are here! More later on Joel's latest pieces.

Posted by: Random Commenter | May 18, 2007 11:50 PM | Report abuse

OK, here's a standard-issue comment from my mental world:

Isn't the world better off with fewer whooping cranes who have the poor judgment to try to make a living near rock-throwing teenagers? I mean, how many whooping crane carcasses are we willing to tolerate in the neighborhoods where we're trying to raise our teenagers?

(Ultimately, as usual, Charlie Darwin has already told us the answer to this!)

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 11:52 PM | Report abuse

I would trade all the necessary carcasses (but no more) to save more whooping cranes on the wing -- beautifully graceful, large, well-marked, feet-trailing. Nature in all her glory.

Posted by: Yoki | May 18, 2007 11:56 PM | Report abuse

'mudge - In the words of some Gershwin or the other:

"It ain't necessarily so ..."

Posted by: Bob S. | May 18, 2007 11:57 PM | Report abuse

And anyway, how can ya not love our Cassandra? C'mon now.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 18, 2007 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Yoki - Ya' know what's funny? It's probably a good sign (for the cranes) that whooping cranes are being stoned to death by suburban teenagers. When I was a young man, no matter how badly I might have wished to fling a projectile at a whooping crane, there were none to be flung at!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:03 AM | Report abuse

"You have heard it said an eye for an eye but I say to you turn the other cheek."
There's the dividing line for me.
Why don't the inerrant crowd read their own bibles? Jesus declared the New Covenant. He rejected a piece of Leviticus. The OT must be veiwed through the teachings of the Messiah. The Falwells and Robertsons are the new Pharisees.
Although the Pharisees came after the destruction of the temple so Jesus would have had to contend with the Levittes.
John's gospel is very late, give me Mark everytime.
Guess who

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2007 12:04 AM | Report abuse

No prophet is held in honor in her own country. (Ooops, mixing metaphors!)

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:05 AM | Report abuse

Well, heck, if the inerrant crowd just shut themselves up, where would most of us in the 'boodle be?

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:09 AM | Report abuse

I regularly read the "full rules" --

and they haven't yet actually banned self-important bloviation! (Whew!!)

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, no, Bob S. If that is true, it breaks my heart. The whooping cranes are an outward and physical manifestation of the beauty of the sky; if sad kids with sling-shots or whipping-arms are striking them down, I would like to take those children back into school buildings and show them some documentaries of what happens when the powerful victimize the weak.

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 12:16 AM | Report abuse

It is those inerrant crowds that just give me the pip!

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 12:19 AM | Report abuse

A must-read (for those interested in Iraq)

Posted by: LTL-CA | May 19, 2007 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I don't think I understood a single damn thing in that 12:04 post.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 19, 2007 12:27 AM | Report abuse

That was wonderful 'Mudge.
The best definition of Methodism I've heard was from a woman pastor, "We're not Calvinists."

Bobbies death broke the dream.
Both he and Malcolm X went through major changes right before God and everybody. Bobby did his tour of the south and dicovered poverty and despair in the heart of the richest country in the world and decided to do something about it. Malcolm X went to Mecca and discovered that not all non Africans are evil. (sorry for the simplicity but i'm rushing)

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 12:28 AM | Report abuse

That is why 12:04 was so wonderful, don't you think? Entirely incoherent but self-important. Inerrant!

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Seems clear to me 'Mudge.

Posted by: Central Scrutinizer999 | May 19, 2007 12:34 AM | Report abuse

hahaha999. G'night all.

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 12:35 AM | Report abuse

OK, I'm going now, but I did want to say, doesn't the anonymous 12:04 remind you of someone?

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 12:39 AM | Report abuse

When I referred to "self-important bloviation", I was, of course, referring primarily to myself!
Yoki, I am distressed that a young man thought that it would be amusing to throw a rock at the magnificent bird. But (I'm embarassed to admit) I once lived (as a young boy, but still!) in a part of Georgia that had so many huge bullfrogs that I would occasionally take a slingshot and shoot BB's at them, just because I could do so. I didn't kill them, but I certainly was amused by making their lives more difficult. I don't see frogs that large very often anymore.

My point, however, is that whooping cranes (and bald eagles, and wolves, and grizzly bears, and several other species) have made substantial recoveries since I was a child & teenager, because they were near non-existence then.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:40 AM | Report abuse

I know, Yoki. I always have to ask myself, does the speaker of this kind of stuff understand that he (she) is speaking code that is just plain gibberish to us outsiders? And who the ford were the fording Levites?

My Seagrams wine cooler is nearly empty (my daughter forced me to try one; I resisted valiantly, but in vain. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.), and Letterman has gone off. It's time for bed. 'Night, Boodle.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | May 19, 2007 12:41 AM | Report abuse

'nite, 'mudge! 'nite, all!

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:47 AM | Report abuse

By the way - The anonymous 12:04 remark WAS supporting tolerance over rigidity. I have no idea who might have submitted the thought, but that was the intention, I'm pretty sure.

Posted by: Bob S. | May 19, 2007 12:53 AM | Report abuse

'night Bob. 'night 'Mudge. 'night Grandma.

Who were the Levites? Please to review your old testament or Talmud. Derived from Levy (Levi). Read the Book of Mormon, Dude.

Posted by: Yoki | May 19, 2007 1:04 AM | Report abuse

The Levites were the priests in the Temple until the Romans destroyed it.
After the destruction, Jewish life centered on the law not the temple, the Pharisees were the judges and interperters of the law.
Christ was crucified before the destruction of the temple so the story of him contending with the Pharisees is extremely unlikely because they weren't in charge of the temple. The Levites were.
The Gospel of Mark was the earliest written, it is very simple and has no mention of Christs birth and most of the stuff that is familiar to Christians today. All of that is in John, the latest and in some scholars opinion the least reliable of the Gospels.
Gee, I thought one should at least know some of this before rejecting it.
Sorry for the self importance.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 1:18 AM | Report abuse

Remember when we were riffing on the silly stuff in Leviticus. All those silly rules.
One of those rules was an eye for an eye.
Christ contradicted that by saying turn the other cheek, so for the people who insist that everything in the Bible is true their argument has been contradicted by Jesus himself.
And I'm the atheist. sheesh.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 1:25 AM | Report abuse

Yoki & Bob S. already supported your point -- sheesh!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 19, 2007 1:40 AM | Report abuse

Yoki-- unwavering christian faith? I'm almost flattered, but that'll scandalize everybody I know ;).

We must have had the same Sunday School teacher, Yoki, because I came to the same conclusion about religion being hooey at age 8.
But what now, I asked myself? What if I decided to worship how I pleased? I could totally power-trip on my religious rules and wreck my moral development in the pursuit of my own whims as religious creed. That didn't appeal. Besides I suspected I'd get a spanking if I launched my own schism.

In college, I quit church. So many of my friends were religion-hopping at dizzy rates, that I sat back and ate popcorn while they did so. Slowly, I did my comparative religion homework.

Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism--no.

Protestantism--double no. When people sleep in church, that's a sign to stay in bed, not go.

I adored Taoism, but it's not a religion.
Sikhism--wow. Pure monotheistic poetry about God's vastness, the complexity of the universe, God's love...yet, I recognized it was the Christian message. Some verses literally translated Jesus' teachings. Beautiful. Yet, worship is sung Punjabi poetry. It's hard to partake in that.

At this same time, my best friend from college was becoming a protestant pastor, and I was proofreading her theology papers. I had a new friend studying to be a Catholic nun, and pastor friends. Surrounded!

I was about to take a new look at Christianity from the other side of the altar-- from the perspective of managing worship with politics involved, with the congregants quibbling with pastors over minutiae of worship, doing power moves, etc. Listening to my friends gripe about their jobs killed totally any desire to become protestant on my part.

I attended a deaf protestant church for social reasons, to meet other deaf. It's normal. You take what's out there in sign language and make do. Wilbrodog loved the socialization experience, too. He totally loves the exchange of peace.

But I felt a fraud. Also, I wasn't feeling much peace in church with my awareness of the political dynamics. So I stopped going.

And, I had finally felt moved in church, right when I was in a low point in my life with lots of stress. It was so quiet I was open to be reminded of the beauty and generosity of life and love, like Martooni described so well. Very humbling. It occurred in a Catholic church I attended with a friend for the first time after being out of church for over 7 years..

Today, I consider myself atheistic before breakfast, vaguely spiritual after my first cup of tea, agnostic in the afternoon... and truly religious sitting before a good dinner or a much-needed cup of afternoon tea. When asleep, I'm COMPLETELY pagan. I'm Taoist 50-50. In my present Anglican church, I sometimes actually am vaguely Christian for a few seconds at a time.

I guess I could be an atheist-- I've been called one-- but where's the fun in that? All there's left to hope for then is the wonderful nature of humanity making the world better. To that I say a big PFFFT.

Hmm, I could believe in Dog. That works.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 19, 2007 1:48 AM | Report abuse

Get thee behind me stranger.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 1:49 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod. I was reading the links you provided yesterday about AIDS in Africa. It really did test my assumptions about the use of condoms in combating the disease. If not properly used condoms are next to useless. Lack of hygiene, multiple partners and all the other differences in culture do have an impact on the spread. I was up til the wee hours reading and slept much of the day which is probably why I'm still up and cranky.
The authors of the metastudy did recommend the use of condoms by prostitutes who seem to be a major vector in transmission. A 10% failure rate of condoms used by a person who may have several contacts a day is frightening, but better than not using them at all.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 2:11 AM | Report abuse

That definition of Methodism that Boko999 heard "we aren't Calvinists" is the negative version. The positive version is "God wants everyone to be saved". So Wesley preached to the lower classes and encouraged them to learn to read, eat properly, save money, and generally take care of themselves.

Outlook is up, but not yet at the blog. Here's preemptive comments:

1. Joel mentions "hitting" a button. I haven't checked that as native Gainesvillean (when you live in Gainesville, most of the people you run into are from somewhere else. Even if you worked for the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission). In most of the Southeast, buttons seem to be mashed.

2. I live in a town full of large cars driven by very elderly individuals. Even big red pickups periodically get creamed. North of us, where I visit weekly, is Brevard County, where drivers behave like victims of the "rage virus" in "28 Weeks Later". I-95's casualty rate may be a bit lower than the road to Baghdad Airport, but if a commuter train system had a tenth as many casualties, it would be shut down and the management sent to prison.

So I'm NOT going to trade my Ford Focus for a Mini Cooper or a Honda Fit, even with a dozen airbags. Sometimes, a bright yellow H3 almost seems a good idea, or maybe an Xterra. Toyota FJ's don't look menacing enough--too cute.

3. Not very long ago, people at my workplace were buying . . . let's see . . . BMW SUV, Nissan Xterra, a couple of full-size pickups. The Expedition is several years old. Now, there's three hybrids and a couple of motorcycles (Freddy is a bit crazy).

4. GM and Ford seem to make competitive smaller cars for the European market. But Ford won't sell its spiffy Euro-Focus in the US because the price would be too high. Maybe because of Toyota's and Honda's reputations in the US? How about Joel taking a ride with Warren Brown?

5. Then there's the debris that fly from trucks (formerly a Palm Beach County specialty). Dismembered pieces of trees. Roof shingles. Wash machines. Gravel. Somehow, a Ford 500 seems a bit likelier to survive than my Focus.

6. And Miami. This year's winner of the road rage prize.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | May 19, 2007 2:22 AM | Report abuse

So were my assumptions tested as well, Boko.

Yes, prostitutes and others who have multiple partners should use condoms, if only because there are so many STDs that can really ruin health, AIDS notwithstanding.

New sex shocker: Semen allergies cured by frequent sex.

It is unknown if men allergic to their own semen can be cured this way.

Mudge-- beautiful account. Your godless churchgoing upbringing is not that atypical for your generation. it sounds very... Mark Twain to me.

I suspect part of the problem is free market economics meeting customers with strong cultural prejudices (racism, slavery, etc.)

Congregations don't like their consciences pricked as their wallets are picked.

Other people can have their hypocrisy exposed, but a pastor who addresses a congregation directly and shatters their preconceptions about their comfortable evils being minor goods, had better be prepared to get in a lot of hot water and lose his church altogether.

At least Jesus could get out of town right after he preached before the angry mobs could find him once his message about hypocrisy finally sank in.

Even the pope has had pressure to apologize (APOLOGIZE) for what he said about Islam... which honestly, was pretty much true, that it has dangerous elements within it. I mean, geezus beezus.

It's good that the civil rights movement awakened a tough public discourse that changed a lot, but alas, it'll never be enough, especially with the same trend arising at the opposite end of the spectrum-- Political Correctness.

Sometimes I think Jesus's major lesson was that when you speak truth to power, you had better be prepared for a world of hurt.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 19, 2007 2:36 AM | Report abuse

Dave. Do you mean there will be more than 144,000 souls saved? How jolly.
I come from a long line of Knox Knuts. Nasty.
Methodists, some Prespetyrians and Baptists came together and created the United Church of Canada. A nicer group of people you'll never meet. I miss the community.
I've been invited to join the Masons but I won't lie and declare myself a theist.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 2:47 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod. If you read my 12:04 cold and you screwed up your brain. Could you suss out what I was getting at?

Oh yeah. Teaming up Hitchens and Coulter is unfair. Hitchens is at least honest.
It should be Hitchens/Paglia.

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 3:01 AM | Report abuse

I still laugh over Voltaire finding safe haven in Geneva

Posted by: Boko999 | May 19, 2007 3:07 AM | Report abuse

Cold reading of 12:04, Boko? I wouldn't really get the last 2 lines without checking up Jesus' dialogues in Pharisees in John and Mark, and remembering what I learned about John having marked anti-semitic flavor due to the emerging sense of Christianity as a non-jewish sect in AD 90.

But the line before that confuses me. Pharisees were in fact extant during Jesus' lifetime. The Levites were temple priests descended from the tribe of Moses who would have tended the Tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem, as decreed by Moses.
That doesn't mean all Jewish community leaders were Levites.

Posted by: Wilbrod | May 19, 2007 5:35 AM | Report abuse

Mudge your post was fantastic.

Like several of you I knew at a young age that the religion I was being raised with did not sit comfortably with me. I always admired people who had deep faith in the church but I oculd never muster it.

I was raised Catholic (very Catholic), church every Sunday, Nuns and Priests in the family and friends of the family, 13 Catholic school but I found too much I disagreed with for me the church just doesn't fit with the modern world and is not attempting to. Never believed the exclusionary parts of religion, that idea is just to contrary to the forgiving God they praise.

So I am now probably Catholic in name only, in reality closer to agnostic and very comfortable with that.

Posted by: dmd | May 19, 2007 7:12 AM | Report abuse

SCC 13 Years Catholic School, I will go consume more coffee now.

Spectacular Saturday morning here, clear and just a little cool - hope everyone else has nice weather.

Posted by: dmd | May 19, 2007 7:46 AM | Report abuse


I cannot say enough about how meaningful the discussion is here. The content fascinates me, but the quality and tone - even with some flicks and jabs -- astonishs. Imagine fencing and a few needle nicks, "Sorry, mate." And "Carry on." Saint Kurt V waving upon high smiles, broadcasting this, And so it goes.

Permit me the invoking of theory for a moment. I am a rhetor, which is the new and improved word for rhetorician. Sometimes I am a compositionist but that is another hat. Our argument thread is truly Rogerian. Carl Rogers, the humanist psychologist who moved analysis toward therapy, said that we must always acknowledge the dignity and worth of the person before us. That is the beginning and that is the stance toward the interaction.

The Rogerian gesture in argument means that we concede the reasonableness of the other's position however different from our own. Begin here; keep this stance. Teaching this to students is difficult.

"Oh, this will help them change their minds."
Not really.
"Then why bother?"
Because creating a civil space for debate is one of the most important actions of your lives and our culture.

"Ok, did it because you require this."
What I would like to share with them, is that the Rogerian gesture can make their lives richer. Who wants to live only with others like them? Oops. Tons of people.

I am richer for being here. I believe also, that a basic human need is being known and accepted. To be known by people who disagree with you and YET be accepted is nearly miraculous. A human miracle.

Thank you.
JA - how Rogerian this forum is, due in large part to you.

Posted by: College parkian | May 19, 2007 7:48 AM | Report abuse

Funny thingie to Boko re of four brothers -- nearly a priest but now married, expecting a surprise and miracle child, and running a landscape service calls himself

Voltaire's Gardener

Worlds collide and yet we still live!

Posted by: College Parkian | May 19, 2007 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Ahem... new kit.

Posted by: martooni | May 19, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

' "If the assassination FRAGMENTS are derived from three or more separate bullets, then a second assassin is likely," the researchers said. . . . . . Gosh. Three empty shell casings were found in Oswald's perch on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Someone please explain to me why three bullets fired at Kennedy would be proof of a second gunman. . . . . . Stop laying traps for fools, knave!!! . . The report said FRAGMENTS from three bullets, not three bullets fired.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 20, 2007 9:40 PM | Report abuse

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